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UCD FALL AT THE QUARTER IN FITZGIBBON CUP

Observer Digest NEWS Qsoc raise charity €1500 with ‘Apprentice’ contest PAGE 2

FEATURES Where’s your head at? Students and head shops PAGE 12

Despatch from Kurdistan PAGE 13

SCIENCE & HEALTH More than 40 winks Sleeping disorders under the microscope PAGE 23

Belfield Barber under threat HUGH MCLAUGHLIN Ongoing construction of the new Student Centre may force the Belfield Barber to close its doors, according to the management of the shop. As construction on the new Centre progresses, the wooden hoarding around the perimeter of the building site – currently stretching from the Sports Centre to the current Student Centre – will be expanded and result in the main entrance to the Sports Centre being blocked off and closed completely. The management fear that the closure of the main entrance will lead potential customers to believe that the barber is not open for business as usual. The barber is located on the ground floor of the Sports Centre building, and has been run by Richard Coffey for the past ten years, who had been running the shop alone until he was joined last year by his father Jimmy, who is also a barber. Coffey has noted a sharp decline in the barber’s business of late. When questioned as to what he felt was the reason for this decline, Coffey said he felt that Continued on P2 >>

2nd March 2010 ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY... 1953 – The Academy Awards are first broadcast on television by NBC

SU ELECTION SPECIAL

DUBLIN’S LEADING LANDLADY OTWO TALKS PANTI

Observer The University

VOLUME XVI ISSUE 10 2nd March 2010

NE QUID FALSE DICERE AUDEAT NE QUID VERI NON AUDEAT

IRELAND’S AWARD-WINNING STUDENT NEWSPAPER

Jedward to play UCD Ball BRIDGET FITZSIMONS

U

CD Students’ Union have confirmed that popular X Factor twins Jedward will be one of three headline acts to play the UCD Ball on Friday 23rd April. John and Edward Grimes, from Lucan in north Dublin, have gained worldwide popularity since appearing on the ITV programme. Their single, ‘Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)’, a collaboration with veteran rapper Vanilla Ice, is currently spending its fourth week at Number One in the Irish singles chart. 1,500 ‘Early Bird’ tickets for the event sold out in four minutes when they went on sale two weeks ago; the remainder of the tickets went on sale last week in the SU’s four shops and online, but a server breakdown meant that online sales did not go ahead at the time. These technical issues have since been resolved, and tickets can now bought online at www. ucdball.ie. Other acts confirmed for the 2010 Ball include Irish dance act Japanese Popstars, Belgian DJs The Subs, and Brazilian husband-and-wife electronic duo Mixhell. UCDSU Ents Officer, Mike Pat O’Donoghue, declined to name any further acts for the event, but said that the two other headlining acts are “bigger than Jedward.” He is also confident that the headline and supporting acts for the dance stage will meet with the approval of concertgoers. O’Donoghue commented that “there’s still a bit of work to be done, but, so far, I’m very happy with how things have gone and hope to release more acts after the Easter break.” Tickets for the ball are still available

Students enjoy their Twister world record attempt last week. See page 3 for story. Photo: Colin Scally from the SU’s shops and online, and are priced at €35. The 8,000-capacity event, billed as Europe’s biggest private party, will be the

largest UCD Ball to date, and will take place on the playing pitches opposite the Quinn School of Business on the last day of term.

This year marks the first occasion on which the capacity of the UCD Ball will exceed that of the Trinity Ball, which has a capacity of 7,500.

Anti-Coke campaign accuses SU of ‘stifling’ them GAVAN REILLY Campaigners on the ‘No’ side of this week’s referendum to overturn the ban on the sale of Coca-Cola products in Students’ Union shops have accused the Union of deliberately stifling debate on the subject. Aideen Carberry, the official agent for the pro-boycott campaign, said in a statement that the Union’s Returning Office had made “a deliberate attempt to stifle a proper debate on the referendum” by refusing to supply the No side with campaign posters ahead of polling on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The Returning Office decided to allow each side in the referendum to produce 40 posters and 1,000 A4 sheets of flyers, in comparison to candidates in the concurrent sabbatical elections who are allowed 200 posters, 1,000 manifestoes

and 1,000 sheets of flyers. No material for the Yes side has been published, as no students have come forward to take formal leadership of the campaign. Carberry’s campaign was fined all 40 of its posters after the UCD branch of Labour Youth – of which Carberry is chairperson – erected posters around campus last Thursday, 25th February, encouraging students to continue boycotting Coca-Cola products. Although the posters were not produced by the No campaign itself, these posters were found to have breached the Union’s electoral

rules as they constituted “a financial advantage [and] the display, distribution or other use for campaigning of printed materials other than those produced by the Returning Office”. Carberry has appealed the decision, saying that the Labour Youth posters “are part of a national campaign by Labour Youth and has formed part of their policy since 2003”. She added that the posters “did not mention any referendum on them, nor did they openly state that people should vote ‘No’.” She had also intended to appeal the decision to supply the referendum sides with fewer materials than the election candidates, on the grounds that either side of the campaign would struggle to command attention with a smaller amount of campaign material. The SU’s Independent Appeals Board had yet to hear the appeal as The Univer-

sity Observer went to print. The Union Returning Officer, Morgan Shelley, declined to comment on the allegation that the fine was a deliberate attempt to stifle debate on the topic, but confirmed that an appeal had been lodged with the IAB and that it was under consideration. It is understood that Carberry submitted the designs of her campaign’s posters and flyers almost 24 hours after the deadline imposed by the Returning Office, but asked for her materials not to be printed until the appeal had been heard. However, it is unsure whether Carberry had actually submitted the appeal on the amount of material permitted, as earlier intended. The No campaign’s materials were sent to print on Friday morning and were due to arrive for distribution on campus yesterday (Monday). Carberry could not be contacted for further comment.


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THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

02.03.10

NEWS CONTINUED FROM P1

Belfield Barber under threat the current economic climate was to blame, stating that “basically people don’t have as much loose money, and someone might need a haircut but he’d say, ‘I have only twenty quid, so I’ll have to leave it until next week.’ They might be getting two less haircuts a year, but if everyone starts doing that you’ll notice a slight drop.” As well as problems relating to the recession, the barbers must now overcome the interference to their business caused by the construction of the new Student Centre. Coffey has expressed concern about the effect the construction work might have on his business, and told The University Observer that he hoped to counter this hindrance by displaying “some signs along that hoarding saying ‘Business as Usual’”. He also expressed hope that the Sports Centre would assist with the task of making students aware that, despite its main entrance being blocked off, all business would be operating as usual inside the building. Coffey has instigated some promotional events to boost the business such as “posters, and we hand out flyers with a couple of euro off a haircut.” Coffey reported that he had seen “a few of the flyers come back in,” and deemed these recent promotional efforts to have been relatively successful.

news@universityobserver.ie

UCD Pharmacy to find new management

QSoc’s Apprentice raises €1,500 for Red Cross

RUTH ARAVENA

NATASHA WETTEN

The Quinn Society (QSoc) have raised €1,500 The Student Centre pharmacy may be taken over for the Irish Red Cross following the final round by new management in the coming months. Stuof its adaptation of the popular TV series The dent Centre manager Dominic O’Keeffe explained Apprentice. The money was raised through tickets to The University Observer that although plans sales at the first round of the event, and by a colwere not definite, the manager had approached lection at the final. him about “relinquishing his licence” due to The final round of the competition took place increased workload. in the Quinn School of Business last Thursday, The pharmacy’s lease is currently held by Sean 25th February, where the four remaining teams Foley, who also owns another pharmacy on Meath pitched their final business strategies to the judgStreet in the city centre. According to O’Keeffe, ing panel. Team Apollopact were declared the Foley has found his schedule becoming increaseventual winners and scooped the €2,500 prize. ingly busy, and feels he may need to relieve himThe winning team are presented with their prize The judging panel included prominent self of his responsibilities to the UCD outlet. Photo Natasha Wetten businessmen and women, including Senator Himself a graduate of UCD, in recent years Folmagnate Denis O’Brien, and Bobby Kerr of Insomnia Feargal Quinn, developer of SuperQuinn. Others ey has founded a professional skincare company, and Dragons’ Den. involved were senior partner in charge of Ernst and who market and manufacture a range of psoriasis Each of the four teams were given ten minutes to Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Competition, Frank skin care products. It’s understood that he is in pitch their ideas to the panel. The presentations were O’Keefe, Nicola Byrne, founder of the 11890 directhe process of introducing his skincare line to the followed by question and answer sessions led by the tory enquiry service, telecommunications and media United States. panel. The judges commended the students, Despite the change in managewho were predominantly final year students ment at the outlet, O’Keeffe was studying in the Quinn School, for the variety keen to stress that there will be and professionalism of their presentations. little visible change in the level of The winning team, Apollopact, proposed a services provided at the pharsolar-powered waste compactor which would macy. help cities deal with waste management. The O’Keeffe added that the UCD Boru Team were awarded second place and pharmacy has been managed by won mobile phones for their Aspire Consulvarious different independent optancy proposal, while all-female group Les erators since its opening in 2002 Filles took third place and won an iPod each. and has employed over a dozen The other participating team was Team different pharmacists – a fact he Alchemy, who pitched a car rental business believes has gone relatively unCiticarz. noticed by students. QSoc auditor Matthew Gleeson, who Asked if discussions had acted as Master of Ceremonies for the event, been held with any major chain explained that although a student competition, pharmacies or other alternative the teams that taken the compilation of their management teams about the business plans very seriously and that each was future of the pharmacy, O’Keeffe intended to face the real-life business market. said that no such talks had been Mairead Fortune, representing the Irish Red Chaplain Fr Leon Ó Giolláin with student representatives from the held but expressed his opinion Cross, agreed with the judges’ complementary world’s religions met in UCD’s St Stephen’s Chaplaincy last week to that the new management would appraisals of the proposals, noting that “there’s likely be a lone operator. unite UCD’s various faithful communities as part of International some ideas there that I think any of [the Week. Photo Alex Court judges] would be lucky to sign into.”

“How many pints do you drink?” Take the ePub survey and check how your drinking habits compare with your fellow Irish students. Log on to www.ucd.ie/studentadvisers and click on the ePub icon for more information and instructions on how to complete the survey.


02.03.10

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

NEWS

news@universityobserver.ie

Student services suffer in budget cut ZOE AUSTEN

S

ignificant university budget cuts will mean that some student support services may be curtailed or cut altogether during the September registration period for the 2010-11 academic year. The recently published Review of Registration 2009, compiled by the university’s Registration Implementation Oversight Group, has identified significant problems in the provisions being made available for next year’s registration process. It is understood that these originate from the six per cent budget cut across the University. The report has revealed that UCD Registry have not budgeted for delivery of its Assisted Registration Labs, which were attended by 1,500 students this year, or for the Student Desk Call Centre which runs a helpline assisting students with any registration queries they

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have at the start of the year. Both the Assisted Labs and the Call Centre reported an increase in usage this year in comparison to the 2008 registration season. Commenting on the review, UCD’s Director of Registry Kevin Griffin told The University Observer that “the specific issues of the call centre and assisted labs are under review, as we want to protect these vital service elements so discussions are continuing in respect of the finances required.” The review also noted that despite the success of last year’s registration, there are more “unknown fears” for both the ongoing budgetary constraints and the risk of further staff and resource constraints. Asked how the ongoing budgetary constraints would affect the overall registration process, Griffin explained that “the ongoing budgetary constraints will doubtless make [registration] a big challenge, but all

efforts will be made to ensure the service available to students meets their needs.” “Registration 2009 was judged to have operated very successfully, with a high satisfaction rating among the students,” Griffin added, saying that “this was achieved in challenging circumstances” due to the need for the large staff in charge of registration having to “operate under constrained resources.” Griffin revealed that planning for the 2010 registration season has already commenced, “although full-scale activity is still some months away.” He added that “modest, rather than major, functionality improvements are being planned, with our main focus for now being on ensuring the level of service to students using the online registration system will be effective and timely.” Registration has already been affected by clashes with the CAO ofers.

Student Health Centre benefactor cuts funding BRIDGET FITZSIMONS

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unding to the UCD Student Health Centre will be drastically reduced next year, as a result of the withdrawal of an outside benefactor’s donation. An anonymous benefactor donated €250,000 to the operations of the Student Health Centre in December 2007. This sum was to be split between two academic years and was donated specifically for use to fund the operations of the student counselling service. Although it was hoped the donation would continue this coming year, the benefactor has decided not to renew the donation to the service. A spokesperson for UCD praised the benefactor, and noted that the donation had had an extremely positive effect on the student counselling service. The spokesperson explained that “the funding allowed the UCD Counselling service to significantly increase its support for student seeking assistance,” and noted that “one of the key results of this support has been the major reduction in waiting times for students over the course of the two years.” The health service will now be operating on €125,000 less than it has had for the previous two years, and has meant that other funding options are being explored. UCD Students’ Union has agreed to hold an

emergency Council meeting in the first week after the mid-term break, where class reps will vote on whether to present a referendum to the student body on a universal student health insurance scheme. If passed, the referendum could see a compulsory insurance scheme being rolled out as early as September 2010. Commenting on the insurance scheme proposal, the UCD spokesperson stated that the policy would “cover primary care with a comprehensive travel policy included,” and that a “key feature of this initiative is the competitive premium that will be obtained due to the reputation and student numbers at UCD.” The motion to be put to SU Council states that “the premium and policy specifications will be subject to an annual review by the Students’ Union President, Welfare Vice-President, Director of Student Health Service & Vice-President for Students,” and that the aforementioned parties will meet each May to review the amount students are charged for the scheme. It is understood that students who hold medical cards will be exempt from the insurance levy if they can provide proof of holding a medical card at the time of their academic registration. If the referendum proposal is carried by SU Council, a referendum on the subject would be held in concurrence with the Union’s Executive Officer elections, which take place in the first week of April.

New restaurant shop to sell UCD merchandise SHANE REGAN UCD’s Commercial Office have sought planning permission from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to make significant changes to the interior of the main Restaurant building, including a new purpose-built shop unit to be located in the building’s ground floor. The application proposes to modest redevelopment of the lower ground floor interior of the building, allowing for the creation of a new shop unit, a change in the existing series of panels, and the creation of a “new glass and steel enclosure.” It is understood that the university propose to operate the shop as a merchandising outlet selling UCDbranded clothing and memorabilia. UCD currently sell such goods through the Students’ Union’s shop on the ground floor of the James Joyce Library building. The planning application, which was submitted to the Council last month, specifies the intended changes to the internal structure of the building, with the development intended to target the north-east side of the building, adjacent to the Newman Building. The most radical change to the existing structure will be the creation of a “new glass and steel enclosure within the existing double height space, having a new floor

area of 42 square metres and an overall height of 6.6 metres above lower ground floor level, and with new partitions and display window.” The area affected by the proposed redevelopment has been idle since the closure of the Timeout Café in 2008. The University Observer understands

Students in full twist for Suas Photo Colin Scally

UCD Suas break world Twister record COLIN SWEETMAN

that the redevelopment will see major visual changes to the ground floor of the building, including a radical renovation and the restructure of a number of internal walls and partitions. A separate planning application has been lodged for the creation of the shop unit, as despite its internal location within the Restaurant building, the opening of such a shop would constitute a change of use, approval of which must be given by the Council. UCD’s Commercial Manager, Gary Moss, was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

On Wednesday 17th February the UCD Suas Society broke the world record for the largest mat used in a game of Twister. Between 350 and 400 students took part in the game, which was played on a mat covering a ground area of 1438 square metres. The record attempt took place on the UCD rugby pitches behind the Sports Centre. The record was previously held by students from the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who played a game on a mat measuring 1411.8 square metres – approximately ten mats fewer. The event itself, which was chiefly organised by the Suas society, was supported by UCD Students’ Union and by UCD Societies’ Council, and was held in order to raise funds for the Rag Week beneficiary charities.

A reported €890 was collected at the event, which will be distributed among five UCD societies including Suas, St Vincent de Paul, Rotaract, the IPA Society and the Gaisce society. The central Suas Educational Development organisation assisted its UCD branch by providing buckets, t-shirts and photography for the day, while also offering advice for safety and guidance plans. MB, the manufacturers of the Twister game, assisted the society in breaking the record by offering to sell game mats at a significant discount. Auditor of UCD Suas, Dave Hegarty, has expressed his satisfaction with the event, telling The University Observer that “it went well on the day, and everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves.” He added that the record attempt “started off as just an idea, but quickly gathered pace; [eventually] hundreds of students took part.” Hegarty thanked

those who had helped the society run the event, commenting that the society “had great support from the college and from MB in particular.” Hegarty went on to say “it’s all for great causes. I volunteered with Suas in Kolkata a few years ago and I know that the money raised here can go a long way over there.” Suas is a charitable organisation that raises money to enable educational development in underprivileged countries such as India and Kenya. Hegarty stated that the UCD society hope to run one more fundraiser before the end of the semester, but said that the success of such an effort would depend on the academic commitments of the society’s committee members. Other fundraising events during Rag Week included a Pancake Sale on Tuesday and a performance from the Saw Doctors in the Student Bar on Wednesday.


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THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

02.03.10

ELECTION SPECIAL

NEWS

news@universityobserver.ie

Education Vice-President Profiles and analysis by Bridget Fitzsimons John Logue 2nd Law

James Williamson 3rd Science

While he may be unfamiliar to the vast majority of students, even those already involved in the Students’ Union, John Logue has ambitious plans if he gets elected to the role of Education Vice-President.

20-year-old James Williamson, a third year Science student, cites his experience as the main reason why he feels students should elect him, stating that “I think that with the position of Education Officer, a fresh face is not what you need.”

Top of Logue’s list of priorities is a renewed transparency and accountability from class reps, Programme Officers and sabbatical officers. His primary concern is with class reps, who he does not feel are currently very accountable to their classes. Logue wants reps to regularly address their classes and gauge their opinions on upcoming motions, and to encourage more students to get further involved. While he claims to be a new face, Logue currently sits on the Student Consultative Forum, which he cites as a form of experience for the role of Education Vice-President. He says that he is running for the role out of “frustration”, and is different from his opponent in that he recognises the SU as a “closed society” and wishes to tackle this. While it’s commendable that Logue wishes to get involved in a structure that he has had little prior involvement in, his manifesto does reveal a lack of experience. Among other things, his demands that academics publish sample A and D-graded scripts is unfeasible,

having been rejected by lecturers in the past. However, his enthusiasm is quite refreshing in a structure that seems to be jaded and cliquey. Logue acknowledges his involvement in the UCD Ógra Fianna Fáil group, the Kevin Barry Cumann, yet maintains that he will not allow party politics to influence him in his role within the SU, saying that “I’ve no ambition to be a politician or a senator.” However, his political links are obvious in his constant references to getting advice from former Education Vice-President and current National Youth Officer for Fianna Fáil, Brian Doyle. Logue’s enthusiasm is refreshing and he maintains that he will be able to build experience and will work hard to know policy if he is elected. A fresh face is something that UCD Students’ Union sorely needs, and if Logue’s enthusiasm has some backbone behind it, he will prove a formidable opponent for Williamson.

Williamson has served as the SU’s Science Programme Officer for the past year and has shown a commendable workrate in this time, having set up and sat on numerous committees, and having served as chair of the Science Day 2010 organising committee. However, he was quick to criticise current Education Officer Donnacha Ó Súilleabháin, citing a poor work ethic, and saying that if he was in Ó Súilleabháin’s position, he would “resign, and I wouldn’t run for USI Education Officer.” Williamson promises to be “more vocal” on a number of student issues and at committees, as well as liaising with class reps more. While he recognises that the SU has become less visible this year, he disagrees with the perception of the Union as a clique. He calls himself “a very outgoing person and approachable,” but his unwillingness to recognise the SU corridor as being unwelcoming to outsiders could prove alienating to students. Williamson’s manifesto is ambitious: he has promised specific

Analysis

things to each faculty and it is hard to know whether he is fully aware of UCD’s current financial circumstances. However, it is hard to place faith in an Education Vice-Presidential candidate who says that he will fight the registration fee, and who then asks students to support the result of a preferendum asking students to pay a fee for the health service on top of the registration fee. While there remains some work to be done, it is clear that Williamson is passionate about the position he is running for. While some of his manifesto is a touch over-ambitious, the majority of it seems to appeal to the common student, and it is worthwhile that he has laid out specific plans for students in each building. His experience will stand to him, but students may wish to change the SU into less of a clique and Williamson could suffer as a result of this.

It’s very difficult to decide who is best for the job of Education Vice-President, as the candidates present very different qualities. While it is arguable that the role requires a certain level of experience, the Students’ Union is in dire need of some fresh faces. Both candidates present ambitious manifestoes, but it is unclear whether either will be able to deliver on the promises they have made. A clear lack of understanding of UCD’s further budget cuts is evident in both. While ambitiousness is something to be welcomed, both candidates need to regain a sense of perspective. The reality is that if promises made during the height of the boom were not achieved, then they are unlikely to happen next year when funding is tough to come by. Williamson’s experience is commendable, and despite being an active member of what many see as the SU clique, he is keen to help bring about change. His outspoken criticism of his predecessor shows that Williamson is not willing to simply follow SU lines, and wishes to genuinely offer a change. However, his idealism proves problematic – his goal to have UCD hire new library staff, in a time in which this is just not financially viable, being a key example. However, his work within the SU is commendable and varied, most notably his work on many Science committee. Logue brings in a fresh face, something definitely needed within UCD Students’ Union. However, his lack of experience may prevent him from truly being able to know and work with UCD on SU policy, as well as effectively liaise with university employees. He is convincingly confident that he will be able to learn quickly, but whether or not this is achievable when his opponent has worked as a Programme Officer for the past year is questionable. These are two very well matched candidates, both offering very different qualities much needed by the SU. Students must decide whether to vote for experience or a new face, and choose which will be more valuable to the SU in the long run.

Welfare Vice-President Profile and analysis: Catriona Laverty

Scott Ahearn is a history graduate and incumbant SU Welfare Officer. He is running for the position for the third time and is unopposed. Scott Ahearn is an election veteran at this stage – his third election campaign in three years sees him hoping to retain his current position as Welfare Vice-President. Ahearn believes that it takes more than just one year to complete the promises on any manifesto, and that any candidate who says otherwise is simply lying. He is re-running this year therefore because “there are things I want to continue on in my manifesto, there are things I want to finish off in my year.” There are indeed several ideas in his current manifesto that hark back to its year-old counterpart. He admits however that his previous conviction that sabbats work to office hours is unfeasible “I’ve learned a lot, I’ve given a year of my life to this job, taken phone calls at two in the morning – at four in the morning”. There are some controversial points in his manifesto, including initiating a campaign to introduce over the counter emergency contraception, which he says would eliminate the need to visit GPs for the prescription, thus driving down the costs for students. However he doesn’t appear to fully appreciate that there could be negative aspects, and the idea smacks of one not quite fully thought through.

While Ahearn is not involved in the running of the campaign, his continued, and unyielding support of Please Talk is one area of concern after serious concerns were raised over the founders’ handling of the funding for the campaign. However, his support does appear to be founded innocently in the merits of Please Talk rather than through any links to its founders – who include several of his predecessors. One further admirable idea is to fully introduce the medical card system to the Student Health Centre, although he has to be pushed on how students with medical cards would retain their registration with their home GP, and is somewhat vague on how that might be achieved. Pinning Ahearn down on any contentious issue is a difficult task. When asked whether or not he is in favour of the proposed health centre levy, he talks in circles, hiding behind the idea that as an elected student representative, he should not sway votes “it’s not for me to say yes or no, but what we’re doing is engaging the opinion of the students”. With matters such as this one on the table, it’s fortunate that Ahearn is running for the Welfare office, and not one with more responsibilty at the highest decision making levels. Ahearn is undoubtedly an experienced candidate, and has had a rather successful year so far. While it is not the past year that is under review here (that will come later), it’s the yard stick against which his future performance will be measured. What he has shown this year is that he is eminently suited to (and one suspects more comfortable in) dealing with personal cases rather than sitting on committees and in forums. This, coupled with his experience from a year on the job, makes him an extremely capable candidate to deliver more of the same next year.


02.03.10

ELECTION SPECIAL

news@universityobserver.ie

5

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

NEWS

Campaigns & Communications Vice-President Profiles and analysis by Alex Court Pat de Brún 2nd Law

Colm Maguire 3rd Arts

A second year law student from Carlow, Pat de Brún is keen to make the Students’ Union more relevant, but may need to consider the problems with some of his promises.

A thoughtful politics and philosophy student from Manchester, Colm Maguire wants to personalise the Students’ Union, but is this merely motivated out of a timid inability to address students en masse?

Pat de Brún is quick to criticise UCD Students’ Union, saying “visibility is the main problem for me at the moment”. This confident man’s mind is made up that “the main reason I want to do this job, is to make the SU relevant and make it visible...” The current Law B&L Programme Officer, de Brún’s solution is his pledge to get SU officers “out there lecture addressing, constantly letting people know what’s going on… Get the sabbatical [officers] to visit the houses on res and ask students what they want.” Not something we haven’t heard before. This candidate plans to keep a closed perspective in considering student demands: “This is UCD Students’ Union and my only interest is to represent the students.” He says this will help keep the Union relevant, as “If you focus on UCD issues… you’ll get more respect from the students.” Such a focus incorporates his plans to replace the Women’s Officer position with a Gender Equality Officer and making week-long events such as Green Week, the annual SU environmental campaign, into year-long projects. De Brún talks these promises up by clarifying how “having a Women’s Officer and not a Men’s Officer is in itself sexist... having a Women’s Officer makes [no] difference to women running for sabbatical elections,” but cannot explain why the incoming sabbat team will yet again be entirely male. As for year-long campaigns, de Brún insists that

Maguire talks with some academic confidence. His hushed speech is peppered with a Mancunian accent. He’s no loudmouth lad, and has thoroughly considered why he wants to be a sabbatical officer. Maguire notes that the Students’ Union has almost 20,000 members behind it, and then says “strength in numbers is what makes the Students’ Union worthwhile.” He is simultaneously aware that “members feel detached from the Union,” but remains confident this can change with intimate communication. Maguire reveals some creativity on this topic: “Currently, our communications strategy is emails and posters but… you get emails everyday and there’s posters all over campus. I think a more personal touch is needed.” What this is and whether it’s realistic remains questionable. Maguire is keen to highlight the volume of Union members as a deciding factor in his work, if elected, on national campaigns. He sees UCDSU to be “in a position to help others who are less fortunate” and thinks wider projects are worthwhile because of his “social conscience”. Though Maguire means well, he cannot reply to criticism that suggests campaigns like advocating gay marriage would leave him without time to fight tuition fees. His reply is weak: “We would help students in particular minorities… [but] if there’s an issue which is more student-related we’d concentrate

Analysis

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n issue de Brún will face in his proposed lecture addressing and res visits is time constraints. Another is driving students crazy. Will students who live on campus appreciate a politician knocking on their door every month? De Brún needs to see that some students will be too

the current system is fraught with “costly fillers.” Projects like supporting UCD’s gay and lesbian community, he maintains, will be better achieved over a longer timeframe. Whether momentum can be sustained over such a period isn’t a question he’s overly worried about. This policy isn’t applicable throughout, however, as Seachtain na Gaeilge would remain unchanged. Asked why the Irish language is made an exception of, the response goes “because... as we’ve seen over the past couple of years it has an extremely high turnout for every event…” Perhaps his Gaeilge policy derives from his Gaelscoil education, and is nothing short of hypocritical. While he is confident, and would do well shouting in lecture theatres, de Brún’s goals need more thought. It seems as if de Brún has assumed that most students will see his ideas as good ones, and has not anticipated criticism. busy finishing an essay due the next morning, or immersed in Scrubs, to find an SU presence immediately welcome. De Brún might not be invited into living rooms or thanked for trying to initiate debate on how to improve campus living. If people do invite him in and get chatting, de Brún will soon stutter should anyone oppose his initiatives. He’ll offer some quick quip to get him off the hook, or simply revert to ‘campaign weeks are crap, year-long events are much better,’ merely

raising his tone should you ask for reasons why this is so. Maguire, alternatively, mightn’t be audible if he addresses a lecture. Front-row students who do catch his whispers may be shocked to learn their registration fee is supporting a fund he established to aid Egyptian farmers or some-such worthwhile but irrelevant cause. You might feel sorry for this kind-hearted man, who says he would resign from the SU if his office

on that.” Another aspect voters should fairly consider is whether a Briton like Colm – whose key campaigning experience, as evident in the photograph on the back of his manifesto, is marching against the British National Party – would effectively represent Irish students. Maguire himself admits “I can’t speak Irish… that is probably [my] largest weakness,” but points out how – like his predecessors – he “would give the Irish language officer full confidence over Seachtain na Gaeilge,” a campaign he fully supports. While he may have put more thought into his campaign than de Brún, it seems Maguire would operate best in one-on-one meetings rather than standing, Dan O’Neill-style, on a soapbox. That said, Maguire’s honesty in conceding that his own personal ambitions, such as LGBT marriage, would play second fiddle to the demands of the student body is commendable and a sign of his genuine intentions. was mandated to campaign for the re-introduction of third-level fees, but this is probably not a good reason to vote him into office. Neither candidate will make an ideal Campaigns & Communications Officer: de Brún has the brawn but lacks the campaining finesse, while Maguire is too meek and might be more effective if he could ignore his moral high ground. RON may fare better than usual in this race: it is up to the student body to decide if this is an option it wishes to consider.

Entertainments Vice-President Profile and analysis by Killian Woods As in 2008, the race to become the Students’ Union’s Ents Officer has thrown up just one candidate willing to brave the election gauntlet. Many will know him as the SU Arts Programme Officer; others will recognise him from Arts Soc; some of you (according to our survey in the last issue) think that he already is the acting Ents Officer. Jonny Cosgrove is the sole candidate this year, and although he is well aware that the infamous RON option is always lurking and ready to pounce on any major slip-up, Cosgrove looks a confident figure ready to step into a position that he has been groomed for. Seeing his fellow students entertained is something that Cosgrove says he lives for, and the experience he has in this aspect of student life speaks for itself. Name a nightclub promotion for UCD students in the last three years and Jonny Cosgrove has more than likely been involved one way or another. The token phrases regurgitated by Ents candidates year after year (“taking Ents to the next level” and “putting my own spin on things” being two staples) appear in Cosgrove’s interview, though you can expect his tenure to be anything but predictable. Cosgrove admits that he tends to “jump from idea to idea” – and although he concedes that this could be a weak aspect of his personality, it could keep Ents fresh and flowing. The current Arts Programme officer is very clear on certain areas of Ents that he feels need improving – chief among them the Ents website, which he feels “has to exist properly, rather than just being a ticket website.” He continues: “I want to make ucdents.com a one stop, must stop site for students to find what’s going on.” Cosgrove places huge emphasis on Ents’ ability to reach out to the average UCD student and his plans not to advertise Ents events with just a few posters or a brief text: “One aspect of my manifesto was about Ents being interactive. One idea floating around is, instead of having posters, you would have digital displays around campus. This would save the Union money and much more creativity could be put into advertising.” Even small gimmicks like applications for Facebook and the iPhone and Blackberry platforms could be a possibility, according to Cosgrove, who seems intent on pulling out all the stops to raise awareness of UCD Ents. One detail that Cosgrove is keen to deviate from is the alcohol aspect of college entertainment. Cosgrove maintains that college entertainment “is not about getting drunk, it’s about enjoying the process”, and his main

thought process revolves around getting “the bar back up and running properly” again. “If we bring in on Thursday evening €3.50 for a pint and a €5 cover charge to get in, I would much rather see students stay in and have the craic with their friends campus than in town.” Another ambitious plan from Cosgrove could see UCD have a campusbased nightclub, though the enthusiastic idea of having the venue running seven nights a week may be a step to far for Cosgrove. However, should the nightclub become a real possibility, “Ents nightclub will come first and foremost” ahead of current events such as Thirsty Thursdays in Club XXI and Dirty Disco in Dtwo in terms of promotional scale. One great pity about this year’s Ents election race is the lack of candidates vying for the position. Competition between candidates usually perks interest in all five races amongst the electorate, and one might only hope that Jonny devotes the same traditional intensity and drive to his Ents campaign as all contested candidates would. Cosgrove is an exceptionally wellqualified candidate and his manifesto shows great creativity when marked against those of his more recent predecessors. It will remain to be seen if his term of office, if elected, will deviate much from the tried-and-tested Ents formula - but Cosgrove gives every impression of being the right officer to break the electro mould of more recent years.


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THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

02.03.10

ELECTION SPECIAL

NEWS

news@universityobserver.ie

President Profile and analysis by Gavan Reilly There are two ways of interpreting the fact that Paul Lynam is uncontested for the position of SU President: either he is an impressive and undefeatable candidate, or that interest in leading the SU has hit a new low. In this case, both these reasons hold a degree of truth. Lynam is certainly an impressive candidate with significant experience in the world of student politics: two years ago he served as Eastern Area Officer with the Union of Students in Ireland, while last year he returned to UCD as Education Vice-President with the students’ union here. This year he has returned to his Social Science degree, but the Dundrum man feels he has “more to give… I think I’m the best person for the job. I think two years ago I’d have considered my performance as Education Officer as quite satisfactory.” Having experienced life on the inside in both UCDSU and in other Dublin-based SUs during his time with USI, as President Lynam would bring considerable experience to the table – he is certainly better qualified than most to point out UCDSU’s strengths and failings. He says that UCD’s sabbatical officers “are there for students better than most [other unions]”, while acknowledging that “because of the sheer size of the college, I think we’re not as wellknown or as approachable as in other colleges… [but] if I come down to the corridor and I want to know where my Welfare Officer is, my preference would be: in his office. You have to get the balance right.” Lynam speaks strongly of incumbent President, Gary Redmond, whom Lynam describes as “a very good friend… I stand by not only voting for him, but campaigning for him”, but says that he would have liked this year’s union to have been more active in campaigns. “Last year Dan [O’Neill, last year’s

Campaigns Officer] ran seven or eight campaigns in terms of rallies at the lake. I’d like to have seen more of that.” Lynam hopes to take charge of a Union as one of three uncontested full-time officers – but the sole presidential candidate disagrees with the idea that uncontested elections are a sign of waning interest. “In terms of the Ents candidate, Jonny Cosgrove’s CV for the position is second to none. It’s not that nobody wants to be Ents Officer, it’s that first of all, nobody thinks they could beat him, and most people would think he’s the best person for the job. Scottie’s one of the best Welfare Officers we’ve seen since I’ve been in college, and I’d be surprised if he was ever opposed.” And as for his own election? “I’m humbled that nobody has come forward to challenge me – however, I would take no votes for granted… There are only three people in the university who have more experience than me: [former SU Presidents] Barry Colfer, Gary Redmond and Aodhán [Ó Deá].” With statements like these, and the fact that Lynam consistently refers to the sabbatical corridor as a “we” rather than a “they” – giving the sense that he’s so assured of election, he considers himself already in office, and his forthright manner is confirmed by the fact that he interrupts the Observer’s interviewers 50 times in his 75-minute interview – it would be fair to conclude that the Union has still been unable to shed its image as a insiders’ clique. Lynam is keen to point out, however, that this isn’t something he’s particularly intent on tackling. “In terms of dispelling a belief that might never go away, that it’s a clique or not – is it one of my priorities? No. My priority is making sure your grant comes on time.”

Lynam promises to run a tight ship, as exemplified by his proposed policy on dealing with vicepresidents who disagree with Union policies. “We are one team and I would be the team captain. Take Miss UCD – if Council supported Miss UCD, then no vice-president – no vice-president – will speak against it.” Lynam’s manifesto is an ambitious one, hoping to

guarantee promises currently in the Union pipeline. Though he acknowledges that most of his goals will be dependant on the SU’s financial situation after this year’s UCD Ball, Paul Lynam is a strong candidate with the experience needed to lead an SU of UCD’s size, and the biggest question for his term of office is whether his vice-presidents will be able to absorb his autocratic and headstrong nature.

What is ‘RON’? In each of the five sabbatical elections, regardless of the number of candidates running for the position, voters will have the option of choosing ‘RON’, or ‘Re-Open Nominations’. This, in essence, is a ‘none of the above’ option – so if none of the candidates in each election meet with your approval, you can choose to vote for none of them in addition to your right to spoil your vote or to abstain from voting in the first place. For electoral purposes, the RON option is treated exactly as if it was a human candidate – so under the Single Transferrable Vote system used by the Students’ Union, which is similar to that used in Irish general elections, you can choose to give RON your number 1 preference, or number 2, or so on for the number of candidates in the election. So, for example, if you have a genuine choice for who you want to win an election and if you would prefer to have nobody but your candidate get the job, you could give RON your number 2 preference. If the RON option is ultimately deemed elected, the position remains unfilled, and the SU Returning Office will restart the nomination process for that position, thereby allowing new candidates to enter the election for that position. If any of this week’s elections return a RON result, a second election would most likely take place in the first week of April alongside the SU Executive Elections. The RON system means that candidates who are uncontested – such as in the Presidential, Welfare and Ents elections this year – must still convince voters to elect them rather than being entitled to take the position by default. The RON option was first introduced in 1998, and won its first election against an uncontested Ents candidate, but has not been chosen since. Gavan Reilly

Referendum on Coca-Cola ban GAVAN REILLY Alongside this year’s elections, students will be asked to vote on a referendum regarding the SU’s current position boycotting the sale of Coca-Cola products in SU shops and in the two campus bars. The formal wording of the proposal will be as follows: “Do you wish the Students’ Union to lift its existing boycott of Coca-Cola products, thus allowing the Students’ Union to sell Coca-Cola products in its shops and be in a position to accept sponsorship from the Coca-Cola company?” A majority of Yes votes will mean that the Union will abandon its ban on Coke products, which include Fanta, Sprite, Lilt and Riverrock water. For the referendum’s result to be declared valid, at least ten per cent of the Union’s membership – about 1,900 people – must vote in the ballot. A majority of No votes will therefore mean that the

boycott will continue, and no SU outlets on campus will sell Coca-Cola for the foreseeable future. The referendum has been called by Union Council after it passed a motion to hold the ballot at a meeting last month. The motion was comprehensively passed, by 47 votes to 6, in acknowledgement of the fact that the overwhelming majority of current students were not members of the SU when the policy was first introduced. Because the referendum was called by SU Council and not by the usual method of student petition, any interested parties are entitled to come forward as the official ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ agents and to use Union resources to produce printed materials. No formal ‘Yes’ agent had come forward as The University Observer went to print; SU class rep Aideen Carberry has declared herself as the official ‘No’ agent in the referendum, and will be campaigning to uphold the ban. The current SU policy originates from 2003 when two divisive referenda were held asking students to adopt the boycott, in protest at Coca-Cola’s alleged involvement in

the murders of nine of its unionised workers at a Colombian bottling plant. The controversial claims have never been proven – a court in Miami dismissed a case brought against Coca-Cola in respect of the murders – but proponents of the ban insist that Coca-Cola played an organised part in the killings. An SU committee was formed earlier this year tasked with investigating the allegations made against both Coca-Cola and Nestlé, whose products are also boycotted by UCDSU, and to recommend whether the boycotts should remain in place. The group’s findings have yet to be published, however. UCD Students’ Union were the first institution in the world to introduce a boycott on Coke products; students’ unions in Trinity College and across the UK have since introduced similar policies. The most recent referendum on a Coca-Cola boycott in Ireland took place in 2007, when a resounding 63 per cent majority of students in Trinity College voted to uphold their ban on Coke products.


02.03.10

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

7

ANALYSIS

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It’s all a matter of choice As a referendum that proposes a health insurance scheme is considered, Bridget Fitzsimons examines the proposal and questions its validity

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News Editor

t is clear that something needs to

change in the student health centre. It was assumed that with the advent of health centre charges earlier thsi year, things would be different. No more long waiting times, more services and an altogether better health centre was what we thought was coming. However, it is obvious to anyone that has visited the health centre that this is simply not the case. While certain services, like the contraceptive clinic, have been reintroduced, waiting times are still quite lengthy and it feels wrong to pay €25 for the same service we were getting for free twelve months ago. Because of these problems, Students’ Union President Gary Redmond has proposed that a health insurance scheme be implemented in the student health centre. The scheme, if approved by students, could see a payment of up to €100 being paid alongside the registration fee. This payment would amount to a health insurance premium, which would cover students for a limited number of health centre visits, as well as offering them health and travel insurance outside of the university. While all of this sounds great on paper,

especially as the counselling service will be operating on €125,000 less than this year, the reality is not so perfect. This scheme is riddled with problems and is likely to cause contention within the student body. To assume that all students use the

health centre is naïve at best. While it is undoubtedly a necessary and valuable service, it is not a facility that everyone uses. Given the current economic climate, it is bizarre that the SU would consider asking students who do not even use the service to pay up to €100 for it. While the

Pulling up our Socs As the economic climate causes UCD’s bigger societies to scale back their operations, Quinton O’Reilly wonders if they are serving students as best they can

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f academia is the backbone of a university, then societies could be regarded as the heart. Nobody can deny their contribution and the positive effect they have to university life, but the current year seems to have brought about a lull in their activities compared to previous sessions. The profile of guest speakers who have visited the university at the societies’ behest could be taken as an example of this trend. In the previous two years, the names that have graced the campus with their presence are many and varied: international stars such as Will Ferrell, and J.K. Rowling, have touched down in UCD because of the efforts of these societies such as the L&H Society and the Law Society. Set your sights to the current year and the contrast couldn’t be greater. The L&H are currently showing films most weeks, while the Law Society are bringing in Jeremy Kyle, a man famous for his aggressive approach to the dysfunctional guests on his ITV daytime chat show. The most high profile guest for students this term, Bill Bailey, was brought in due to a joint collaboration between the two societies. The obvious reduction of funding in societies has caused this shift to occur. The money that societies once received from annual sponsorship had decreased due to businesses not having the same financial means as before. With or without these financial issues, it could be argued that many societies had fallen into a comfortable routine of churning out the same events each year and now seem to be experiencing difficulty in coping with the changes the year has brought. Although new students come into the university, the majority of students are already familiar with these events meaning that there’s no obvious incentive for them in attending the same event or debate twice. Further, students don’t have the same funds to spend as they once had and attending events like society balls or nights out on a regular basis is no longer a viable

current system is not perfect, it certainly seems fairer for students to pay for the service as they use it, instead of forcing everyone to pay. Similarly, there seems to be an assumption that all students are without health insurance. Many students are a part of

family schemes or simply pay for their own health insurance. This is particularly pertinent for mature students, who simply will not want to give up on their family policies simply to suit UCDSU. It is commendable that students with medical cards will not have to pay, but this decision is coming at the worst possible time. While the recession has undoubtedly affected the health centre, it has also affected students’ pockets. If UCDSU are planning on campaigning politicians to cap the registration fee, they cannot expect students to pay an extra €100 on top of what is already a crippling payment. It is simply hypocritical. There is too much bureaucracy involved in making sure that this scheme is implemented in a fair way. It is simply not feasible. In a time that is economically unsure, students should not be expected to pay money by the people who are supposed to be protecting their interests. €100 might not seem a lot to some people, but for others it is the difference between making rent and missing a payment or simply eating or not. If UCDSU’s sabbatical officers and class representatives wish to properly represent those that have voted them into the positions they hold, they must realise the needs of those that they are serving. Students do need a proper health centre, but it needs to be properly administrated and funded in a fair way. As students simply would not pay if the payment were not mandatory, it seems as if it will have to be for it to make any real change. A lack of choice is not something that students should be asked to accept, in any form.

A sound understanding of law is critical in a number of areas, including business, finance, human resources, insurance and in public service. The Postgraduate Diploma in Law is ideal for graduates in any discipline considering a career in or involving law. This one-year programme will be of particular interest to those preparing for the Law Society of Ireland entrance examinations as well as students seeking a career in areas other than law that require a sound understanding of legal principles. Admission ordinarily requires a minimum 2.2 honours degree in any discipline. option. Societies relying on these events as a means of funding will have to be become more selective as to what events they hold or at least improve on what they already do to gets students to part with their cash. Society balls have taken a hit over the previous year although events this term like the Arts Ball, which sold out within hours, appear to be coping with this problem better than expected. But perhaps the financial restrictions will be a blessing in disguise for these societies. While it has forced them to balance the books more efficiently and exercise a degree of caution as to how they utilize these funds, they will have to use more creative and intuitive methods to try and capture the imaginations of students. Meanwhile, the decrease in profile for them could mean that smaller societies in the university could get the chance to shine with events that could have been overshadowed by the arrival of a high profile guest. Such a change could entice students to explore or get involved with other smaller societies and aid their growth and scope for activities. Despite this, it must be noted that the societies in UCD do a fantastic job in making university life more vibrant and the students running them should be commended for the effort they put in each year. It’s up to them now to also show the imagination they once had.

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8

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

02.03.10

COMMENT

comment@universityobserver.ie

From Carnival to Chaos: Alcohol and St Patrick’s Day As our national holiday approaches, Amy Wall considers the darker side to the St Patrick’s Day Festivities

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aint Patrick’s Day is an occasion where the entire world becomes just a little bit more Irish. We see the faces of proud people proclaiming their Irish heritage plastered all over our television screens. It seems that on the 17th March, if you want to impress your friends, the easiest way to do that is by telling them you’re a half, a quarter – or maybe even an eighth – Irish. St Patrick’s Day is Ireland’s biggest holiday of the year. In Dublin, the streets are shut down for the annual Paddy’s Day parade, which gets bigger and better as the years pass, and a feel-good atmosphere surrounds the capital as people cheer for the man who rid our country of its snakes. However, there is a darker aspect to this national holiday that has yet to be fully realised. It lurks in the backdrop, getting ready to attack once the parades are over, the drink is flowing and night has descended on our little emerald isle. And what is this darker aspect? Drunken and disorderly behaviour. There is the perceived notion that the

only way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day is to drink the local pub dry. Let’s face it: as stereotypes go, the national Irish one isn’t so great. We are a nation constantly parodied as being drunk, aggressive and dressed in a dodgy wardrobe of green, white and orange with some bright red hair adorning our heads. There’s a popular episode of Family Guy where the main character, Peter Griffin, takes a trip to Ireland to meet his birth father. As the plane descends into the airport, it lands on a runway littered with empty bottles. Peter’s father turns out to be the town drunk, a job which is apparently held in high esteem in this fictionalised Ireland. And who can forget that episode of The Simpsons where Homer and Marge take the kids to the local Paddy’s Day parade in Springfield, where – wouldn’t you know it? – Bart ends up drunk and abusive. No surprises there then. We Irish have a great sense of humour, and are not adverse to laughing at ourselves, but surely this is not the kind of image and behaviour we want to project to the rest of the world. The question must be asked: when did alcohol become such an intrinsic part of this national holiday? I find it hard to believe that after a hard day of chasing snakes out of the country that Saint Patrick sat himself down with a pint of Guinness and said, “Jaysus, I’m knackered after that. Sure c’mon lads, lets have a few and get this party started in our new snake-free land, wahey!” While the main Patrick’s Day celebrations in Dublin City usually run quite

“Nationwide, there was a reported increase in the number of thefts, anti-social behaviour and – more shockingly – drink driving”

Rivers worldwide, such as the Chicago River, are dyed green for the day – but St Patrick’s Day also has a much less innocent side smoothly, it seems that once the parade is over and night falls, the atmosphere in the city changes completely. The Sunday Independent reported that at the celebrations held in 2008, over 75 arrests were made by Gardaí from Pearse Street station between midnight and 6am. All of these arrests were due to drunk and disorderly behaviour. Gardaí were on high alert as alcohol fuelled fights and lewd behaviour blanketed the entire city. Nationwide, there was a reported increase in the number of thefts, antisocial behaviour and – more shockingly – drink driving. According to the World Health Organisation, Ireland has the highest level of alcohol consumption per head in the world, with consumption levels growing and growing.

No Comment? Writers are notoriously sensitive creatures. Ingmar Bergman – the legendary cinematic auteur who wrote and directed over forty films during his lifetime, in addition to countless plays – once described an encounter with a critic who continually harangued his work. During a candid 1999 interview, Bergman recalled how he eventually lost his patience and punched the said critic. “I saw him sitting there opposite me. By then he’d been hounding me for some years in a quite nasty way. It was a dress rehearsal. I thought if I catch him in the interval and land him one, I’ll be rid of him for the rest of my life. The paper couldn’t possibly let him review my work after that,” said Bergman, before concluding: “I hate that man. May he burn in hell.” While Bergman’s response was perhaps a little extreme, his immense frustration would undoubtedly resonate with many writers and others who are exposed to the public eye. And with the burgeoning prominence of blog culture, criticism is now more comprehensive than ever. Recently, some of my colleagues at The University Observer – and in particular on otwo – have been the subject of criticism in relation to articles they have written. Indeed, I myself am no stranger to online vitriol. One might ask if such criticism is fair. The answer is invariably yes. The internet, at its best, serves as a pertinent forum

Alcohol has become such a problem that teenagers across the country are now presenting with liver disease, and it is no surprise that the percentage of underage drinking gets bigger with each passing St Patrick’s Day in Ireland. But how can we combat this? In 2008, pub owners and off-licences agreed with an appeal set out by Dublin City Council not to serve alcohol until the late afternoon at the earliest – but even still, there was little impact on drunk and disorderly behaviour or underage drinking. What else can we do? Other solutions would be to increase the tax on alcohol even more, but yet again, it is doubtful that this would have any affect whatsoever. Short of embracing a national alcohol prohibition, it seems that the problem of alcohol consumption

during this time of year will continue to get out of hand. Strict rules need to be put in place. It seems that since the recession began, teenagers are finding it easier to get a hold of alcohol, especially during this time of year. Many pubs and off-licences are in debt and therefore, perhaps, the rules are being bent slightly when it comes to under age persons looking for drink. The Government needs to control this. Identification should be asked for. The supply of alcohol should be monitored. As for Saint Patrick’s Day, there is nothing that can be done, other than hope that the Gardaí have enough forces to clean up the streets of Dublin, once the carnival atmosphere descends into chaos yet again.

In light of the many negative comments recently left on the Observer website, Paul Fennessy asks how harmful blog comments can be

immune from idiocy. During an interview with fellow columnist Charlie Brooker, Marina Hyde of The Guardian recollected an unusual approach which she adopted to rebuke a detractor whom she found particularly galling: “I had someone who rang me once and I kept him on the phone and got his company name and did that thing, like in Seinfeld, when you ring his place of work and say: ‘I think you’re really shit at your job.’” Although Hyde’s Stephen Fry is one of several celebrities who have comments were said reacted angrily to online abuse partly in jest, they do illustrate the ample for a unique manner of debate that a level of unnecessary newspaper or television programme could personal abuse that is often spouted by never hope to replicate. Therefore, steps those within the internet community to reduce the democratic nature of blog – abuse which merely masquerades as culture would be an affront to the spirit of legitimate criticism. democracy itself. Of course, these comments are usually However, democracy – as with all syseither blocked or swiftly removed from tems – has its defects. Thus, blog culture is the website in question, but that fact does not without its flaws. The internet attracts not excuse their virulence. its fair share of people who are prone to The old adage of “sticks and stones may imparting stupid, ill-conceived comments. break my bones but names will never hurt Equally, writers and bloggers are hardly me” was clearly a pre-Freudian phrase,

as it would be difficult to find anyone nowadays who is entirely impervious to heinous personal attacks. This abuse can prove hurtful to the said writers and can also potentially undermine their confidence. With this in mind, I would argue that such verbal abuse is no less reprehensible than physical abuse. Even someone as renowned and revered as Stephen Fry can suffer from the implications of these callous tirades. Writing on the disconcerting feelings aroused in him from the untoward abuse that the comedian received via his Twitter account, Fry tweeted: “Very low and depressed at the moment and any drop of meanness makes it so much worse.” Many other internet writers would certainly relate to Fry’s dismay. Accordingly, the mental anguish which this type of abuse frequently prompts is a serious issue, yet regrettably, the matter is seldom discussed. Moreover, football fans are sometimes reprimanded for directing abusive comments towards players, while television and other media personalities are routinely penalised for making inappropriate remarks. Why not impose a similar system to combat those who engage in this disreputable behaviour online? Admittedly, a scheme whereby offenders were – for example – fined for their abuse, would constitute an extraordinarily complex undertaking. Unless a remark was quite obviously intending to

cause offence, it could not be punished. In addition, smaller websites with fewer resources would doubtless find it difficult to implement this proposal. However, even if small steps were taken, then surely most reasonable-minded people would consider the internet a more harmonious and ultimately better place. If large websites such as The Guardian’s were to initially instigate this measure, then less prestigious ones could follow their lead. Perhaps some sceptics may argue that this move could also represent a step towards greater levels of internet censorship. I would argue the opposite. Abusive comments only serve to intimidate others and dissuade people from expressing their views. Therefore, as long as common sense is applied by regulators – so that rational, intelligent arguments are not also neglected – then freedom of speech will prevail.

“The mental anguish which this type of abuse frequently prompts is a serious issue”


02.03.10

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

9

COMMENT

comment@universityobserver.ie

The EU and China: A call to arms With the EU now considering lifting its arms embargo on China, David Uwakwe argues that the People’s Republic hasn’t done enough to change its ways and encourage Europe to welcome China back into the club of elite militaries

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he Spanish presidency of the EU is considering lifting the Union’s 21-year-old arms sales embargo on China, put in place after the events in Tiananmen Square on 4th June 1989 when several hundred civilians were killed. Three weeks after the crackdown, the then twelve-member EC made a political declaration that called for the “interruption by the member states of the Community of military cooperation and an embargo on trade in arms with China.” It was firmly in place up until five years ago when Germany and France began to question this imposition on a growing trade partner with whom the EU was trying to build a ‘strategic partnership’. They argue that both sides would benefit from a revised and enhanced EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, so that the Chinese arms embargo could be dropped and China obliged to abide by the terms of the Code of Conduct if it is to be allowed purchase European military equipment. On these grounds the embargo was about to be lifted when China passed the ‘anti-secession law’ which states that, in the event of a Taiwanese attempt to win independence “the state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Following the passing of this law and pressure from the US, the EU decided to keep the embargo in place. However, the head of the rotating EU presidency, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (pictured right) has broached the issue once again, promising to ‘deepen discussions’ with China about lifting the embargo. So why does the EU now see fit to repeal the embargo? One would think that such a decision would be based on discernable improvement in China’s human rights record. However, no such improvement has taken place. In fact China continues to disregard their obligations in this respect – for one thing the anti-secession law is still in place. Reports from Amnesty International and the UN, as well as open admissions from China itself, prove it to be supplier of arms to other countries that are under UN, EU, and US arms embargos. In 2007 China exported $24m worth of arms to Sudan, a country that had just witnessed genocide, and is under an international arms embargo. In 2008 a 77 tonne shipment of arms including three

million rounds of ammunition and 1,500 rocket propelled grenades, was sent back to China when they couldn’t find a southern African port that would unload the cargo, destined as it was for Zimbabwe in time to arm Robert Mugabe’s crackdown on opposition supporters and politicians. Zimbabwe continues to be under an EU arms embargo imposed in 2002. North Korean defectors have reported a Chinese involvement in Myanmar’s burgeoning nuclear missile development plans. But since these things happened in the distant past, the Chinese now see fit to argue, and some European countries are disposed to agree, that gradual advances have been made in human rights and civil freedoms in the People’s Republic, and now they should be rewarded by lifting the arms embargo. According to the government, China is a paragon of democracy where regular elections take place in hundreds of thousands of villages and cities however citizens must vote for a candidate from a list pre-approved by the government. Another ‘advance’ has come in the form of a 2003 amendment to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, stating that “The state respects and preserves human rights”. If that’s the case then they obviously don’t respect the constitution because despite the above amendment to the contrary, Chinese human rights abuses are numerous in kind and often huge in scale. The continued wholesale suppression of Tibetan freedom or even increased autonomy; suppression of ethnic Uigher culture and identity; imprisonment of political reform campaigners; liberal use of the death penalty; and the kind of everyday disregard for individual rights that we saw in the wholesale demolition of residential areas building up to the Olympic games, bespeaks of a regime that will brook no dissent. What evidence is there to suggest that the Chinese government wont use European made weapons for “non peaceful means” should any mainlanders show “dissent” like the Taiwanese, or like they did 21 years ago? What real evidence is there that China has changed? For their part the Chinese argue that the embargo is outdated serving no purpose other than to impede more amicable relations between the two powerhouses. They would welcome it more as a gesture of good faith than an opportunity to go wild in the gun stores. A spokesperson for the Chinese government told the EU Observer that lifting the embargo would

not result in large orders being placed for European arms. Maybe not, but the double digit annual percentage growth in China’s military budget over the past decade or so suggests that that country is right in the middle of an unprecedented arms build-up. Those Europeans in favour of lifting the embargo point to the fact that part of this build-up is due to continued arms sales from Europe to China despite the embargo, and say that what is needed is a new improved Code of Conduct. With this in place the embargo can then be dropped. But we’ve clearly seen in cases such as Sudan, Zimbabwe and Burma, that China is not disposed to abide by the rules of the present Code of Conduct. How then, can they be expected to suddenly meet the requirements of this new, more stringent, code? Finally, the argument by France and Germany that the revision and enhancement of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports is somehow predicated on lifting the arms embargo on China is mystifying. One does not facillitate nor preclude the other; it’s a non sequitur, a smokescreen designed to obfuscate the fact that although the EU maintains that this new code will be a catch all, what it will actually do is allow the EU to be seen to be coming down hard on the Sudans and -istans of this world while they let the biggest fish of them all through the net. The obvious thing to do to preserve and improve international security and effect a general reduction in the supply of weaponry in world-wide circulation would be to keep the Chinese embargo in place, but make it legally binding, and alongside this put in place a new robust EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, and continue to call upon China to live up to its human rights obligations. Anything less is just more of the same.

Newman Fund

Students are invited to apply now for a grant from the Newman Fund. The Newman Fund is a sum of money which derives from ‘capitation’ funds coming to the Student Consultative Forum and is administered by a committee of the Forum. It is designed to fund activities which are not organised by the recognised clubs and societies in the University; any individual or group of students may apply for financial support for their project. Recent successful applications have included: European Architecture Students’ Assembly Postgraduates’ Ball Newman Community Games UCD Community Musical Seachtain na Gaeilge Vet Students Carol Service The next meeting of the Committee is on March 23rd so applications should be lodged before March 12th, 2010. Application Forms are available in the Forum Office. All applications or queries should be emailed to: elizabeth.cronin@ucd.ie or sent by post to The Forum Office, Student Centre, UCD.


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comment@universityobserver.ie

That’s Infotainment!

With the recent increase of reports on the private lives of celebrities in broadsheet papers, Gary Dunne laments the lack of journalistic merit shown in dealing with the lifestyles of the rich and famous and asks: Are They Worth It?

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ecent months have seen John Terry, Willie O’Dea and Tiger Woods facing the glare of the media. Often these scandals come in hand-in-hand with phrases such as “tabloid fodder”, or with cautionary tales about the power of the red tops. But it is not just The Sun and The National Enquirer giving us the juicy details about Tiger Woods and John Terry’s latest affairs. These incidents are now covered on Sky News, and are front-page on The Guardian and The Times. But why is this the case? Why are Tiger Woods extramarital affairs main evening news? Tiger may be one of the biggest sports stars in the world, but Muhammad Ali is probably the most famous sports star of all time – yet his frequent affairs, divorces and re-marriages did not dominate the serious news agenda in the 1960s and 1970s. Instead, he became a major news story for his links to Eliza Mohamed, Malcolm X and the Black Muslims. His subsequent refusal to deploy to Vietnam ensured his face would become the most recognisable in the world. Unless collecting mistresses like an eager child completing a sticker collection or frequent public urination counts, neither Woods nor Terry have

achieved much outside of their respective sports. So what has changed since the 1960s? The answer is a hyper-competitive media environment. Newspapers always have articles to fill their pages from front-to-back. Millions consume this information daily – whether it’s the day after a major election or just a dull Tuesday in November. Whatever the day, whatever the occasion, there is always enough news for the media to exist. But filling this space is hard work – it’s not every day that a major event happens. So what do the media do on less exciting days? They improvise and use what they have to create stories. A slow news day can lead to what would otherwise be a footnote becoming main evening news. How does having a constant barrage of never-ending headlines affect society – and just as importantly, what is the effect on the media itself? How do they deal with the pressure of always needing material? Rolling 24-hour news channels have caused a seachange in the media. Newspapers cannot compete with the immediacy of live news so they must find “scoops” to stay in business. Furthermore, coverage is given to items that would not have been mentioned before. Flicking through broadsheets now, articles on Lady Gaga share column inches with budget deficits. The growing convergence of internet, TV and newspapers mean that competition comes from all angles. Advertising – the lifeblood of any media outlet – depends on ratings, views or circulation. This means

“What has changed since the 1960s? The answer is a hypercompetitive media environment”

that the means of getting attention is changing all the time. Creating the sense of a big story is vital to media outlets. With competition at every angle, a sober response to a story may not attract the public and with them go the advertisers who pay their wages. Accordingly, the media take whatever happens to the nth degree. Everyday, somebody has a crisis or a catastrophe. A passing remark in an otherwise dull interview is seized upon. Politicians – and even football managers – do not merely speak, they blast and they rant. 24-hour news channels exist in a constant state of peril. Viewers are urged to stay tuned for the next critical story. Regardless of what day of the year it is, TV has 24 hours of airtime to fill. The breaking news banner much beloved by Sky News, Fox News et al has changed from something seen six times a year to an almost hourly occurrence. Whereas once the breaking news banner signalled a major event, now John Terry’s selection for Chelsea in a weekend game is considered sufficient. This can be seen as an example of what academics refer to as “infotainment”: controversy equals sales, and sales equals advertising. What does all this mean? Has this been an inevitable progression from the televised debate between Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy? Famously this debate is said to have changed the election in Kennedy’s favour. Viewers who saw Nixon visibly wilting and sweating said Kennedy won the debate, very different to listeners on the radio who believed Nixon won. Now we have media darlings such as Barack Obama as US President. Similarly,

David Cameron, a former PR officer, is favoured to be Prime Minister in the UK within the year. Is the news media’s need to be entertaining so strong that politicians must now be celebrities? The effect of the media has led to politicians - or indeed, anybody in the media – unable to say anything mildly controversial, for fear

it will be amplified to create news stories. This can have an effect on Governmental policies, as media-aware politicians know that they cannot risk the wrath of a controversy hungry media. Bland media friendly faces may have replaced the people of action just when action is needed the most.

Nuclear war: an Iranian Endgame As Iran continues to develop its aggressive nuclear programme, Conor Feeney considers the likelihood of a preemptive military strike on the emerging Persian superpower and its potential implications for world politics The likelihood of the bombing of Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities is higher now than at any stage in recent years: the reality is that diplomacy is not working. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has continued in his tirade of words, orchestrated a crackdown on his own people, and continues to call for the annihilation of Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, has made it clear in the past that he will not stand by and allow Iran to obtain the capacity to develop nuclear arms. President Obama has also stated that a nuclear Iran is “not an option.” The reality is that Israel will not; understandably, allow a radical and irrational government come close to obtaining a nuclear bomb. Even the mere possibility that Iran is close to developing enough enriched uranium, along with a rapidly advancing technical capacity, is not an acceptable scenario. This reality is fast approaching and there now exists a high likelihood of airstrikes before the end of the summer. The United States will most likely express regret at such an event, but the blame will be placed on Iran. Credit must be given to the Obama administration’s diplomatic approach to the problem but unfortunately it has failed. The recent disclosure of the new uranium enrichment facility currently under construc-

tion in Qom is a blatant example of how seriously the Islamic Republic is regarding current diplomatic discussions. It also demonstrates the total lack of validity behind Iran’s claim their nuclear programme is solely for power purposes. Frankly it is becoming clearer now that President Obama’s good intentions have been perceived as weakness that can, and have, been exploited. The International Atomic Energy Agency took a severe hit to their credibility given the revelation’s impact on their past assertions. President Obama has, in the past, stated that “if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.” The recent brutal repression of protestors throughout Iran has demonstrated just how tightly clenched that fist has become. The current suggestions are that tougher sanctions will be put forward in the coming month – Hillary Clinton has expressed a strong desire for tougher economic measures to be put in place. Russia and China, however, will take strong convincing to embrace such an idea, given their repetitive inclination towards inaction. One need look no further than China’s desire to maintain a business relationship with Sudan rather than acknowledge a brutal and ongoing genocide. There are a few obvious reasons why Iran should never be allowed obtain a nuclear

“President Obama’s good intentions have been perceived as weakness that can, and have, been exploited”

weapon. Firstly, a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East could be triggered if such a reality were to ever take effect. Secondly, the government is irrational and therefore the basic assumptions underlying the MAD doctrine do not apply. The chaotic ramblings of President Ahmadinejad are perfect examples of this. There are also however considerable negatives if an attack were to occur. Firstly, the price of oil will skyrocket on speculation of a wider Middle Eastern conflict. This would essentially reverse the international markets’ recent recovery, creating an instant nosedive. The immediate shortterm impacts really depend on the Islamic Republic’s response – when Israel bombed a Syrian nuclear facility a number of years ago, both sides pretended as if the attack never happened. However the likely scope for bombing Iranian facilities would be of a much larger scale. For those who suggest that bombing Iran would hurt the recent ‘green revolution’, consider a worse scenario. Not only would

a nuclear device Allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons potentially would give President Ahmadinejad far lead to such greater clout on the world stage devastating effects, but always aim for such an ideal, we must also could strengthen the dictatorship considerrecognise the reality on the ground. The ably. This is because a bomb would considbombing of any country should be a last reerably strengthen the country’s international sort – but the Iranian government is playing standing, further cementing the positions a dangerous game. Even if new sanctions are of both Ayatollah Khamenei and President imposed in the coming months, they will Ahmadinejad. Both would, therefore, be not satisfy a growing determination in both more willing to unleash further brutality on Israel and the US that Iran should, and will their own citizens. not, be allowed to develop an atomic bomb. People sometimes like to think of this Political procrastination and naïvety must world as the embodiment of an ideal that never be allowed facilitate the worst this frankly does not exist. While we should world has to offer.


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COMMENT

comment@universityobserver.ie

How to lose a year – and pay for it Conor Murphy shares his experiences of UCD’s infinite and sprawling academic bureaucracy, and explains how a simple mistake - for which nobody seems willing to take the blame - has stolen a year of his academic life and €1730

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’m told that a good comment article relies on being impersonal, dealing with the ‘you’ and not the ‘I’. I’m afraid that in this case, that rule goes out the window. When people ask me what year I’m in, I tell them I did First Year last year. I phrase it like this, because I don’t know what I’m doing now. I failed a major project-based module in the second semester of last year. I appealed the result in July, on the simple grounds that I suspected the grade had been wrongly inputted. In the meantime I repeated, doing some Second Year modules to pass time, following advice given to me by UCD. I received the verdict on my appeal at the start of February: I had passed. After repeating a month of the module, after taking out a lease on a year’s worth of accommodation, after losing a year of my academic life, and after nearly seven months of staring at an incorrect grade, UCD tell me, ‘Actually, that’s fine, go home and come back in the autumn again.’ What was involved in this process? UCD received my letter of appeal, got a response from my school (which shall remain nameless, out of a respect they do not return), read the letter, and made a decision. This took almost 200 days – and now I’m left with a door slammed in my face, having wasted my parents’ money and a year of my life. At this point I’ve paid my €1500 registration fees and a €230 repeat fee. I go to the Student Desk to ask for this back; I’m told I’m still enrolled in the course. I go back to the school to be taken off the list. Four meetings, two letters and two weeks later, I sit at the Student Desk, insisting that the poor lady there call my school and have my name removed, telling her I won’t leave

otherwise. Completely by coincidence, I am disenrolled on the spot, allowing me to ask the now defensive and grumpy lady about my fees. “Well, why would you get anything besides €230?” she asks me. I carefully and calmly point out that the huge incompetence of this college has just created, robbing a year of my life. “But you did do other subjects...” she shrewdly reads off the screen. “Yes,” I say, “in a year that shouldn’t have existed, taken on the advice of UCD officials.” “You’ll have to take it up with those officials, then,” she replies. “It’s nothing to do with us.” Yes it does, I think. You are part of UCD. You can take some responsibility for an organisation for which you are the student liaison. While this quandary was becoming murkier, I was also dealing with my school, asking if I could take a learning exercise anyway, preparing in advance for next year. Three weeks later, I still don’t have a straight answer. Letters have to be sent, apparently, and words exchanged – between people who work in the same building. Although the appeals board agreed with me that substantive irregularities occurred in my course – i.e. that my school was wrong – and though the school have changed their procedures due to what happened – i.e. that they were wrong – nobody has apologised, sounded sad, or even set two minutes aside to ask how they can help (aside from one person who has done everything he can, even calling me to offer condolences in the summer. My thanks to him; it has meant more than he can know.) All this has shown me the arrogant and coldly dismissive attitude that an institution like UCD can have. Thousands of students feel this when their grants are delayed by

“Nobody has apologised, sounded sad, or even set two minutes aside to ask how they can help”

mechanical, pointless inputs to fill up a mechanical pointless form, while they live below the poverty line. People’s lives are pushed aside like words on a page, and nobody seems decent enough to help out for even five minutes. I genuinely hope that UCD staff realise what they are doing when they fob people off to other departments for the sake of their own ease. Taking seven months

to read and reply to two letters, but not taking five minutes to call a colleague about a student’s future, is simply wrong. When staff are too arrogant to apologise for wasting

a year of my life, and delaying a decision about whether I failed a module for inordinate amounts of time, it’s time to reconsider their career choice or their mindset.

NUI Awards 2010 NUI Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Humanities: This one-year Fellowship, valued at €40,000, is open to NUI graduates of doctoral status. The Fellowship is in Literature (including Theatre and Film Studies). Closing Date: 23 April 2010

NUI E J Phelan Fellowship in International Law: This is one-year Fellowship, valued at €25,000, is open to NUI graduates of law or any appropriate discipline who wish to pursue research in any aspect of International Law. Closing Date: 16 April 2010

NUI Travelling Studentships: The Studentships are designed to fund postgraduate studies at doctoral level. Each Studentship is valued at €42,000 over three years. At least FOUR Travelling Studentships in the Humanities and Social Sciences and TWO Travelling Studentships in the Sciences will be awarded. Closing Date: 26 March 2010

Full details and application procedures are available at www.nui.ie/awards 49 Cearnóg Mhuirfean, Baile Átha Cliath 2 / 49 Merrion Square, Dublin 2 Teileafón /Telephone: +353 1 439 2424 Ríomhphost / Email: awards@nui.ie


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02.03.10

FEATURES

features@universityobserver.ie

Head Shops and High Times As the contentious issue of ‘head shops’ selling legal highs continues to generate column inches, Leanne Waters sets out to see just how much of an impact those businesses have had in UCD

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n recent weeks, the Irish public has been bombarded with various debates on what are known as “head shops” in Ireland. Such head shops cater to and provide legal products similar to illegal substances such as cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine. With new stores and franchises on the rise and opening around the country, the matter is beginning to seem unavoidable among the general population. With so much attention being drawn to this tremendously contentious topic, both critics and head shop enthusiasts alike are crawling out of the woodwork and voicing their opinions. Such opinions have being pushed to the limit of late, however, with arson attacks being carried out on stores in Dublin. Before even touching on this matter, I sought the opinion of those funding the business: two regular head shop users. Both attend UCD and were more than willing to comment on their involvement in the enterprise. One Second Year Arts student talks me through prices. “I wouldn’t buy stuff every week, but I reckon it would be every two to three weeks. It’s good to stock up every now and again. Mostly, I would buy the legal weed but I’ve tried pills, as well as the legal coke too. I would spend about €50 every time I go, but it depends really. The weed – it’s called Smoke XXX – it’s, like, €30. But you can buy it singularly in joints for about five euro each. The cocaine stuff is around €30 for, like, two grams, I think. And as well, you can get four pills for around €10, I think.” When asked about how he became involved with head shops, one Third Year Science student comments: “I started off with using illegal stuff but then I just wanted to try legal because of all the hype, I suppose. It’s just easier to go through the head shops obviously, and you’re not as worried about getting caught because you’re technically not doing anything wrong. The highs are pretty much the same; depending on what you get, the illegal stuff would be stronger, I guess. But the fact that it’s easier just makes it less hassle to get. If you’re caught with illegal stuff, I reckon you’d have it taken off you and possibly end up in court for possession. But I’m not sure, I’ve never been caught. With the head shop stuff, you’re just safer for now.” Recently, however, said head shops have been greatly in the limelight. Most notably, last month saw organised arson attacks being carried out on known Dublin head shops. Shops under attack have included one Nirvana store on Capel Street, and the Happy Hippy Store on North Frederick Street. As the controversy surrounding the rapid growth of such shops is ongoing, it is now being called into question whether store owners should retain an operating licence. On this subject, our Arts student mentions that “you know that whoever is organising arson hits have to be people who are just pissed off about the shops being around. I mean, when you think about it, it must be a dangerous business to be in – even if it is legal. People have been buying and selling drugs on the streets long before they opened, so now you’re going to have drug dealers and people selling the illegal stuff up in arms that they’re losing out on business. As regards critics of head shops, I do completely understand their objections to them. I mean, bottom line, we’re dealing

with drugs here, no matter what you call it. They have the head shop information online, for example. They sell something called ‘Ministry’, it’s kind of like legal ecstasy, and they’re sold as plant feeder. But honestly, we may as well call a spade a spade here.” Despite their obvious enthusiasm, however, it appears that even head shop advocates succumb to the stigma that is naturally attached to the industry. Both agree that they avoid going to a head shop during the day and prefer later hours after midnight. “The problem is, they’re all based in really obvious places, where you know people. You hardly want people who know you to see you stroll into a head shop in the afternoon. It’s not like they don’t know what you’re probably getting in there. I’d say shops would definitely get most of their business at night and after midnight.” With this apparent stigma in mind, I decided to turn my attention to the opinions of other UCD students. Amidst my rummaging of groups chatting about exams and individuals puffing away in the Arts smoking area, I received a fruitful mixture of opinions on the matter. One mature student commented told me they had “a 17-year-old nephew, and I know that I would be horrified to find out he was doing drugs at all. I don’t like the idea of head shops but the fact of the matter is that they exist. And, in one sense,

I think I would prefer my nephew to buy something from a store as opposed to a street dealer. You don’t want your children socializing with those kinds of people and God only knows what’s gone into a substance a teenager has bought on the street.” Another student remarks: “Do you not think it would just be better to legalize certain drugs? I mean, class C drugs like hash have been legalised in plenty of places in Europe. It would mean that the authorities could monitor what’s happening and then control it. They can’t really control what’s being hidden from them.” They varying arguments seem ongoing, with other students taking notably strong anti-head shop stances. “I think the attacks aren’t particularly called for. But having said that, I do agree that head shops just shouldn’t be a part of our society. I just think they completely bring down the reputations of the areas they’re in. With the amount of tourists passing through, it hardly gives a town a good name if there’s a head shop situated there. “And the same with the Irish public generally: do we want to be known to have head shops on every corner? To be honest, I just think they’re a disgrace. If you think about it, people don’t have a clue what they’re putting into their bodies and they don’t know how it will affect them. By having head shops around, we’re

“You hardly want people who know you to see you stroll into a head shop in the afternoon”

only encouraging people to get involved with drugs.” The Minister for Drugs, John Curran TD, is apparently now taking steps in an effort to have a wide range of legalised substances banned within head shops. Though the arguments surrounding the hot topic are many and indeed fevered, my own favour generally falls to the opposition of such head shops. Put quite simply, it seems that this now-lucrative business has thus far contributed nothing to our society, aside from mounting controversy. Moreover, the stores naturally add fuel in promoting the usage of any drug form, be it legal or otherwise. Though it is obviously fair to argue that they allow for better monitoring of the trade, it seems to me that this would only extend to a small portion of the industry itself. With drug problems and gangland crimes already rife across the country, the recent explosion of head shops in Ireland only seems to be adding to the ammunition on this subject, with hostilities growing every day – evident by the aforementioned attacks. Ultimately, head shops often serve only to undermine the significance of taking drugs and, as one student remarked, “If you’re willing to smoke weed from a store, what’s to say you wouldn’t smoke weed off the street?”


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FEATURES

features@universityobserver.ie

Crashing out of more than college With young people continuing to occupy a leading position in Irish road fatality statistics, Peter Molloy talks to students to ask just how safe we are on the roads

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Features Editor

ewind just over a month or so, and UCD’s newly-formulated Emergency Response Plan is announced to considerable notice on campus. Particular attention is given, not least by this newspaper, to the point that the plan aims to provide a framework for responding to university emergencies up to and including “a hostage situation involving multiple students”. Quizzical interest over that last contingency perhaps served to miss one very important point. The likelihood of any UCD student meeting a violent death in the near future as the result of a Columbine or Virginia Tech style firearms incident is – gratifyingly – extremely low. That doesn’t mean, however, that a future sudden, brutal end to some of the lives on this campus is impossible. In actual fact, it’s statistically almost inevitable. The only difference is that the instrument of most of those deaths won’t be anything quite as dramatic as the weapon of an unhinged classmate. Want to see what’s overwhelmingly likely to take the life of at least one of the people that you’ve studied, worked or played beside during your time in UCD? Drop the paper, walk out to the car park and take your pick. It might be the green hatchback with the furry dice mounted front and centre. The Nissan with the dented flank. Or the Golf with the muddied rims. Better still, in fact, stroll back inside and take a good look at yourself in a bathroom mirror. Forget any television nonsense about the one with the seatbelt doing the damage – in reality it could be just about anyone who closes a car door behind them, seatbelt or not. Florid stuff so far, isn’t it? Depressingly, though, it’s also quite true. In 2008, 279 people lost their lives on Irish roads. 13.9 per cent of all car passengers who died during that period were in the 18-20 age bracket, with 12.9 per cent aged between 21 and 24. And that’s before we even get to the drivers. 9.7 per cent of driver fatalities in 2008 were aged between 18 and 20; just eclipsed by 11.4 per cent fatality rate recorded for those aged between 21 and 24. I’m not making this stuff up. In fact, being an unreconstructed non-driver, I didn’t even know much about any of this prior to last week. If you don’t believe me, simply have a look at the relevant section of the Road Safety Authority’s website. Just don’t do it if you’re looking for information to put you in a cheerful mood on a March Tuesday. Still, I don’t drive, so it won’t be me that ends up skidding across the tarmac of the N11 late some dark night. Won’t it? And you? I’m sure you’re telling yourself precisely the same thing as you read. Driver or passenger, you know you won’t make the mistakes that some young people make on the roads, because you’re much too together for any of that. I don’t really buy any of that, though. Enough of us must do the wrong thing on the roads, at the wrong time, or else the statistics wouldn’t be there to prove the lie. I talked to two students who have made precisely those mistakes, to see if there was anything worth learning from their experiences. Matthew* is a 21 year-old Arts student in UCD – the acquaintance of a mutual

friend. Usually in an article like this, we’d call him “Matthew” because that’s the name that had been selected to discreetly disguise his identity. In this case, however, “Matthew” himself has suggested the pseudonym – I really don’t know his actual name. All I have to work on are his outline details and the mobile number passed on to me. As we chat, I begin to understand why exactly preserving that anonymity is just so important to Matthew. Slightly over a year ago, Matthew, then a young driver who’d just passed his test on the first attempt, got in his car after an evening at a friend’s house, started the engine, and set off down the road towards his home. As it transpired, he only made it just over five hundred metres. What should have been a five minute drive home ended up in an overnight stay in Dun Laoghaire Garda station – only the beginning of the inconvenience to come. Because before getting into his car for that journey home, Matthew had – by his own estimation – downed “… maybe seven or eight cans [of lager]”. “It was stupid – very, very stupid. I’d been there for most of the evening… [I] had the car because I’d come straight out from work. I wasn’t planning on drinking at all, definitely not.” But drink he did. Like any drunk driver in the country, Matthew took a very conscious gamble when he walked out to his vehicle later that evening; it simply didn’t work out for him. “I wasn’t steaming drunk, but I definitely wasn’t myself. I… honestly don’t know why I decided to do it; it wasn’t as if it was a very, very long journey. I think I just reckoned I’d chance it, there and then.” Less then a minute into his trip, Matthew turned out on to a main road, only to run straight into a Garda checkpoint. “I admitted it straight away, even before the breathalyser came out or anything like that. My stomach absolutely dropped. I just remember thinking to myself ‘Oh no, you’re joking’.” The end result for Matthew was a court appearance and a driving ban. He’s unwilling to elaborate on just how long the ban was, but I get the impression that he’s not back behind the wheel just yet. “The embarrassment is absolutely the worst thing of it, no question. Even now, a fair bit on, I’m still very, very cautious about telling people about it or even really talking about the topic [of drinkdriving] too much – I just don’t like to go near it. I do regret it hugely.” Sean* was readily able to sympathise with that sentiment. Also 21, but not a current UCD student, he has had his own fill of driving difficulties. During his first semester in college, aged 18, he and three friends were involved in a serious car accident. On the surface of it, he was almost a stereotypical young driver. “We were, I suppose you could say still are, maybe, kind of petrol-heads. Not boy racers, no, but definitely into cars and F1 and that sort of thing.” In the early hours of an October morning, while travelling at speed down a Dublin road, a freak error saw the vehicle Sean and his friends were travelling in up-ended, before skidding on for nearly twenty metres on its roof. Although one member of the party was taken to hospital for overnight observation, astonish-

ingly, no one was seriously hurt or killed. “We were very lucky – that was probably what struck us most back then. [The next day], my mate gave me a lift down to where it had happened and you could actually see a trail of broken glass and bits of paint where it [the car] had flipped. We just thought it was amazing, and I suppose, a bit of an amazing story to tell to people.” As time went on, however, the rosetinted spectacles began to slip somewhat as Sean reflected on what had happened. “I started getting panic attacks – very badly. I hadn’t any idea what it was at first, until eventually I went to my GP about it. For a while, it was absolutely dreadful. [I think] a lot of it was realising what could have happened that night, and having it come to the surface. It was very frightening.” I’m keen to know if either young driver has any regrets having acted in the manner they did behind the wheel. Matthew is instantly contrite. “Absolutely. I know you hear it an awful lot, but I really would do anything to wipe away what happened that night. I’m so grateful that nobody was hurt, that is what’s most important, but I do really wish that I’d never done it – full stop.” I feel like I’m twisting the knife, but I still have to ask him. Would he still regret things if he hadn’t been caught? “That’s fair enough, I suppose. I honestly think I would. Obviously, if I’d

“I don’t drive, so it won’t be me that ends up skidding across the tarmac of the N11 late some dark night. Won’t it?”

gotten home grand and there hadn’t been any bother, it probably wouldn’t be as quick to hit you, but I think I still would [regret it] now. It’s just stupid, that really is it.” Sean takes more coaxing. When he initially tells me about the accident itself, he’s notably cagey when describing just how fast he was driving. Eventually, he elaborates. “It was quite a… fast speed, yeah. I suppose you’ll always get a bit of that with young guys, egging each other on and all the rest. It’s a few years on, now, so I can obviously be a little bit more mature about it, so in that sense, my opinions have changed to a big degree. I wish we never had, there’s no two ways about that.” Amidst the eventual remorse, however, there’s a flash of cold reality. “I honestly really don’t know if you’ll ever be able to stop it completely. I think you always will have a bit of stupidity with young people our age.” It might be nice to end things on a positive note. In this case, however, it’s somewhat hard to disagree with Sean’s gloomy assessment. It seems it could be some time yet before stories like those above become exceptions to the driving rule. * The names of some students in this article have been changed on request.


14

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

02.03.10

FEATURES

features@universityobserver.ie

Why? Because He’s Worth It Seeing the financial potential in administering some adult re-education, resident profiteering chancer Slightly Mollified catches up with Wor Cheryl, Toni and the rest of the gang to try to deliver the good news. At a premium rate, naturally...

“R

oll up! Roll up! Your man playing away from home?! Bit of footy but he hasn’t even got his kit on?! Eh… having sex… and, and… being a footballer?! Ah, f**k it anyway – are you gullible enough to pay for my dubious help, you silly cow? I think so!” I can actually say the last line as loud as I like, because the girls haven’t arrived yet – I’m just practising my bit. It helps to stay on top of your game, especially when you’ve been away for a little while this season. Bob’s off fetching them and bringing them back here. He’s a good lad, Bob is. He’s only been with me for a little while, but I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far. Good pedigree, if nothing else – did an awful lot of contract work in Iraq… but had to leg it fairly fast when Saddam’s regime fell. He was working as a hired gun – literally – for the Electoral Commission in Zimbabwe when I offered him the contract. Now’s the time to expand, you see – green shoots and all that. The market’s awash with out-of-work Bob types at the moment, so get them while they’re cheap. It won’t be forever that $150 per week will get you someone who’s as equally proficient at Americanomaking as they are at finger-breaking. But I digress. With a creak, the door to the basement – sorry, ‘counselling centre’ – swings inwards, and Bob trots down the stairs. Now, here comes a slightly tricky aspect to this week’s tale, boys and girls. You see, in this politically correct world we live in, even a strictly fictional character like Mollified has to be most careful what he says. If, for example, I was to continue by implying that draped over one of Bob’s shoulders, wrists bound tightly together, was one of the members of a best-selling UK girl band, I could get in an awful lot of trouble. Just like the last time someone did something like that – oh, just Google it. Anyway, we wouldn’t want that, would we? So I won’t. So let’s just call her ‘Cheryl’. And, in an unrelated vein, let us also take this moment to observe that, until at least the 1970s, the mining and exportation of coal formed a major part of the Welsh economy. Ah, Mollified, you dedicated practitioner of punnilingus! So, Bob dumps his human bundles on the chairs I’ve thoughtfully arranged. Mind you, it was the least I could have done with the seminar venue in the state it is. The chairs are sharing the floor with a rusted bucket and a moulded suitcase. Still, I have my laptop, meaning we have PowerPoint, and Mr and Mrs Mollified upstairs have promised that Bob and I can work away for as long as we like, provided we aren’t too noisy. Yes, I know I mentioned green shoots, but that doesn’t mean an amoral young entrepreneur like me can afford to turn down a good bargain when it’s there. I snap my fingers in the basement’s cool gloom, waiting for the girls to slowly drift back to consciousness. Slumped in the chair beside is… well, we’ll just call her by her full, Italian, name: Toni Wifeofaphilanderingfuckwita. Toni probably works best for short. It’s Cheryl who comes around first. “’Ooo the f**ck are you, then?” Top class, as ever. I clear my throat. “Relax, Cheryl. It’s me, the relationship therapist you were emailing. My apologies about the slightly unorthodox

method of colleting you, but it’s all part of the programme, don’t worry.” She sniffs slightly and looks me up and down. “You don’t much look like ‘Sheikh al-Swarmy, The Relationship Guru’?” “Well observed,” I flash back, “but the headshots on my website were taken in Tel Aviv!” The quip goes totally over her head. Honestly, bothering to sprinkle in the odd current affairs quip with these people is like feeding After Eights to a terrier. Beside her, Toni stirs and sits up slightly, her eyes blinking as she takes in her surroundings. “What?! What’s goin’ on ‘ere, then?” It’s all right, though, because I’ve done my biographical homework here. Before meeting her sportsman husband, Toni was a beautician. Reaching slowly into my coat pocket, I take out the most sparkly, shiny dog-ball the chemist around the corner had to offer, and I fling it in her direction. In a flash, she’s off, scrambling to fetch it. I turn back to Cheryl. Not that it’s saying much, but I’ve deduced that she might just be the more intelligent of the pair. My teaching efforts, I’ve decided, will concentrate on her. “Cheryl, we need to start thinking about the factors that make your husband such a pathological shit. We won’t know how to deal with these issues until we know just what they are. Come on, help

“Are you gullible enough to pay for my dubious help, you silly cow? I think so!” me help you. Let’s make like Ashley does on the pitch and think outside the box.” “Thinkin’ ootside ‘is troos-ars, more lyke!” Cheryl squeals, happy she’s finally getting into the swing of things. “Yes, quite,” I mutter, suddenly realising that this may take longer than anticipated. “Look, let’s just cut to the chase here, girls, because I really want those cheques you’re going to write me, and, God love the shred of integrity I still have left, I actually do want to help you.” Blank faces back, like mascara-plastered puppies wondering where the next biscuit’s coming from. “I mean, come on! From the way you’ve been acting, anyone would think that you’re actually happy to just let these guys treat you like absolute mugs. A detached observer might come to the conclusion that you’re willing to be used as a doormat in return for the security and lifestyle of a Premier League footballer’s wage; that you see it as a fair trade-off… ah. I see. In front of me, their twin WAG heads are nodding rapidly in unison. The girls are delighted that they’ve finally gotten something right in class. Probably the first time since about 1995, as well. I give up. There are some things in life that even Mollified can’t solve.

Couples Therapy Our resident love god, Doctor McSeamy, tackles all your relationship woes. Note: Not actual picture Dear Doctor, I am facing a huge problem. My younger brother and I are going on a ski trip with his best friend next week, and I have always felt there was some sexual tension between his friend and I. Lately, my brother has copped on to this, and he won’t even let us stand in the same room because he’s afraid something will happen. My friends tell me that I should just go for it, even though he’s four years younger than me (I’m 22 and he’s 18), and my brother will just have to live with it. I know he feels the same way too, so is it really wrong that we fool around? I’m still hesitant about doing something behind my brother’s back. Any advice? Thanks, The Doc ~ Dear Doctor, This is a no-brainer, honestly. You really need to keep it in you lady pants. I’ll start by describing the oldest and most sacred of codes between men. Older than the Bible. Older than rocks. Older than your mom. It is called the Bro Code, and it reigns supreme. In this case, it’s very clearly stated: thou shall not engage sexually with thy brother’s kin. This includes mothers, sisters and brothers (if

said brother is gay) – though, of course, special caveats exist for stepmoms. So in short, in your case your brother’s friend shouldn’t ever come near you, even if you were butt-naked and covered in cheese. Mmm-mmm. But there is another dimension to this problem, and that’s the fact that this guy is 18. Every guy knows that a man, at 18, will hump anything. A tree swaying in the wind? Fair game. And so, being older and more mature, the onus is on you to make sure his hoo-ha doesn’t meet your bajingo. This isn’t a condemnation of his age or yours – in fact I’d encourage more women to reach out and touch the youth. But the excuse that he is as into you as you are into him is bogus – he’s into anything with breasts. Having a pulse is a bonus. So the point is that you can’t aid and abet this young man’s attempted breach of the Bro Code. He really can’t help himself, and so you have to exercise some self-control, and find some other young buck instead – I mean honestly, there is no shortage of 18-year-olds trying to get their hump on. You really do need to think about the wider implications of your actions – and coming from me, that’s quite a statement.  Consider the fact that these two boys are best friends, and you’re just trying to get your jollies. Obviously your brother feels uncomfortable with you guys bumping uglies, and if you go through with it you might ruin

their relationship. This is why the bro code exists – to maintain friendships among bros. Plus, don’t you have any respect for your brother? The way I see it, this is all entirely selfish. So is it worth trading one night of debauchery for your brother’s friendship, and his happiness? Of course, if you’re going to do it, keep it secret – make sure your brother doesn’t find out. And make it worthwhile as well, because eventually, he probably will.    Hope this helps, The Doc


02.03.10

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

FEATURES

features@universityobserver.ie

Anything but proper order

G

ood old Nigel Farage. Just when it seemed that the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) couldn’t do much more to polish its reputation as something of a vociferously outspoken, fringe element on the European political scene, along comes the MEP for South East England (and a former leader of the party) to well and truly complete the vaguely loony picture. It’s February 24, and former Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy is delivering his maiden address to the European Parliament as President of the European Council. In a flash, however, the spotlight is stolen away from the mild-mannered Belgian by the man from Kent, who proceeds to verbally put down what he sees as the threatening new face of EU totalitarianism with sheer venom. In less than five minutes, the oratorical knife had not only been jabbed into van Rompuy’s chest, but had been firmly twisted. Highlights of Farage’s speech included his description of the European President as having the appearance of “a low grade bank clerk”, and the “charisma of a damp rag”. Even Belgium – hitherto one of the most innocuous spots in the world – didn’t escape Farage’s wrath, with the Briton dismissing it as a “non-country”. Phew! How lovely of him. But for all the column inches that Farage’s words have provoked, there’s little about last week’s parliamentary explosion that’s substantially new. In fact, Farage, whether unwittingly or otherwise, was merely tapping in to a rich political tradition of blistering put-downs and loaded rebuttals. Below, we take you through some of the best from recent years. The wonders of technology mean that most are available to view online. Enjoy, and don’t forget to strap your helmet tight!

Ian Paisley meets the Pope (1988) On mature reflection, perhaps this one was always going to end in tears. Pope John Paul II’s speech to the European Parliament was loudly interrupted by the good Doc 22 years ago; with Paisley holding up a placard denouncing the Pontiff as an ‘ANTICHRIST’. The belligerent Bible-thumper had evidently done youthful time in the Boy Scouts, for – like any good Scout – he prepared multiple posters to circumvent the (high) likelihood of one being immediately seized and torn up. In a word: Mouth-frothing. http://short.ie/rant1 Danial Hannan kicks Gordon Brown to the kerb – and then boots him in the head for good measure (2009) Just what is it about the EU? For an institution explicitly designed to promote Continental coexistence, it’s seen no shortage of debating jousts. Last year, Conservative MEP Danial Hannan mercilessly put the UK’s beleaguered Prime Minister to the sword during the latter’s visit to the European Parliament. They really don’t teach this kind of elegant wordplay anymore – and look, Ma, no notes! Maiden’s Debating? Nonsense – just play the youngsters this excerpt on repeat. They’ll be silky L&H sharks in no time. In a word: Smooth. http://short.ie/rant2 “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy” (1988) October, 1988: the US Vice-Presidential debate is being contested live on air by Democratic candidate Senator Lloyd Bentsen and Republican Senator Dan Quayle, when the latter rather unwisely compares his own political experience with that of John F. Kennedy. Immediately, Bentsen sweeps in to rhetorically cut his opponent down to size. “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” Pithy, but straight to the jugular. In a word: Wincing. http://short.ie/rant3 Khrushchev bangs his shoe (1960) In October 1960, the 902nd Plenary Meeting of

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the UN General Assembly was treated to a memorable display of Slavic anger by Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev. As Cold War rhetoric in the debating chamber gets heated, Khrushchev’s temper eventually gets the better of him, leading to one of the most memorable – if not bizarre – moments of the long ideological conflict. Search Wikipedia for “shoe-banging incident” for one of the most entertainingly long-winded excuses for the incident ever developed – offered, naturally, by Khrushchev’s own daughter. Let’s just say it wouldn’t convince a jury.

With criticism continuing after the choice words of a UK MEP in the European Parliament last week, Peter Molloy hopes his skin proves thick enough as he delves into the frighteningly funny world of political outbursts Features Editor

In a word: Fiery. http://short.ie/rant4 “F*ck you, Deputy Stagg!” People don’t normally associate the Green Party with raucous behaviour; the more usual image attached to the serene environmenalists is that of John Gormley naïvely cycling into work in Leinster House on his favourite green Dublin Bike, saving the ozone layer while his ministerial Merc crawls behind him, being obliged to follow him regardless. Not the case, however, in December of last year, when the Dáil was debating a motion on cutting old age pensions as one of the moves in Brian Lenihan’s savage budget. Green TD Paul Gogarty, trying to reason to the House that it was not the Government’s intent to fleece the elderly, was continually cajoled by Labour colleague Emmet Stagg as the debate became more fraught. The evening Gogarty’s infamous four-letter tirade was uttered, it had already been adopted as a ringtone and clocked up 10,000 views on YouTube – though the best part of it is how Gogarty’s youthful Dublin twang makes him sound like an aggrieved 13-year-old after the authorities have nicked his skateboard. In a word: Profane. http://short.ie/rant5

“Just what is it about the EU? For an institution explicitly designed to promote Continental coexistence, it’s seen no shortage of debating jousts” Speaker Out (2008) The Ukraine hasn’t had the greatest of centuries so far – major riots broke out in 2004 after a Presidential Election in which there were widespread allegations of vote rigging. The resulting Orange Revolution – which saw Viktor Yushchenko overcome a deliberate poisoning attempt – saw the country move away from its Soviet past and strive to form new links with the EU and United States. Yushchenko’s tenure, naturally, was difficult – and in 2008, a key ally of his, the Speaker of the Parliament, faced a politically motivated vote of no confidence which was narrowly passed. Let’s just say that many members didn’t take the news too well.. In a word: Biff! http://short.ie/rant6 Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting… (2009) Completing our cavalcade of parliamentary pisstaking is this moment of briliance from South Korea last year. Opposition members of the South Korean parliament, the gukhoe, tabled a controversial bill proposing to limit the power of the media. The ruling party opposed. Violently. Proof – if proof was ever needed – that the world is best ruled with fists. In a word: Abstention. http://short.ie/rant7

SU Welfare Update Student Legal Service A student-run legal assistance group, which provides information and referral services to members of the UCD campus, will be running their weekly legal clinics at the UCD Student Centre from 1.30pm - 3.30pm on wednesdays for the rest of term.

Please Talk Free Breakfast There will be a free breakfast offered in the Student Center from 10am till 12pm on Wednesday the 3rd of March. Pop along and have a chat with one of the student advisers.

Campaigns - Equality Week is coming March 22nd-25th. There will be loads of events taking place about the issues of disabilities, ageism, gender inequality and cultural diversity. - The next ‘How To Talk’ is taking place on March 24th and the title of the talk is “ How to sleep well”. It will be given by Karoline Nicholson at 1pm in the Student Center. Remember, the SU Welfare Officer Scott is always there to help if you encounter any difficulties. Email welfare@ucdsu. ie or call (01) 716 3112 to get in touch.


16

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

02.03.10

FEATURES

features@universityobserver.ie

UCD’s early morning poster boys Most of us are lucky enough not to be in UCD at 7:45am every Thursday... Natalie Voorheis gets a rude awakening – literally – as she witnesses the carnage of the weekly ‘poster race’

H

ave you ever seen the Thursday morning poster run along the concourse from Quinn up to the student centre? If so, you can imagine the shock I got as I cycled, bleary-eyed, my mind still on my pillow into UCD at 8:30am last Thursday morning. If not, then good for you: you are in blissful ignorance of the frantic rush of activity that society members undergo to ensure their posters get a prominent hanging point of the concourse. It’s stressful to say the least – even for the onlooker. As I cycled slowly down the length of the concourse during the first minute of postering, I saw parallels with the scene in the 2004 film Mean Girls where the infamous ‘Burn Book’ has been photocopied, and the pages strewn through the hallways of school. As the students realise that their most intimate secrets have been published for everyone to read, they go wild running through the corridors, accusing each other of revealing their secrets, and coming to blows. Pretences of human sanity are thrown in the dustbin and the lid is placed firmly on. At the start of last Thursday’s snowy postering session, people seemed to be just standing around doing nothing, and I reflected, disappointed, that this was not the frantic scramble I had been led to believe it would be. But this, I realised as someone screamed “Go!” at exactly half past eight, had been the calm before the storm. On this signal, people began racing here and there, jostling with each other as they literally smacked their posters against the notice boards moving swiftly down the length of the concourse, as if it was the last thing they would ever do. Altercations broke out as one society member challenged the validity of an opposing society’s poster placement. For someone who has never witnessed the insanity of Postering Thursday, this description must seem over the top. It isn’t. Twenty minutes later, as the con-

course began to fill with students heading to their 9am lectures and tutorials, and as society members move on with their day, you would never know anything crazy had happened at all – save for the side-to-side coverage of new posters all over campus. Niall Fahy, a second year Law with Economics student, has been postering for the L&H since he came to UCD. As an active member of the society and a current candidate for auditor, Fahy knows the drill when it comes to the competitive world of postering and gave The University Observer his sage advice. “People are so different when they’re postering,” he reasons. “It’s totally nuts. People get really, really annoyed at each other – you will always see a couple of arguments.” By all admittance we students can be a lazy bunch, but once the effort has been made to get up at some ungodly hour and trek into UCD in the snow, you can imagine the lengths people go to in order to ensure that their crack-of-dawn start has not been in vain. Fahy helped me make sense of what I’d seen, describing the tricks of the trade. “It takes about fifteen [people] to get a good lot up. Societies that have the occasional big event and aren’t postering every week will get thirty or so out in one day to make sure the event is a success, and that can be a nightmare for us as it ups the competition.” Fahy explained that although official postering begins at 8:30pm when Societies Officer Richard Butler shouts “Go!”, well-organised societies generally have their members out by 7:45am in order to insure the best coverage. To prevent the monopolization of certain areas of the concourse, posterers are forbidden from standing with their posters in their hands. In response to this, students put sellotape on their posters and lay them face down on the ground in front of a pillar or wall, thus unofficially claiming that particular spot.

Fahy acknowledges that the whole process is a strange one, but feels that it is a fair way to allocate space, and is certainly better than letting people poster wherever and whenever they want – which would result in a huge litter problem, as well as giving disproportionate and unfair poster coverage for certain societies and campaigners. The bigger societies spend huge amounts each week on the production of their posters. €400 for a batch of 300 posters would not be considered extortionate by most committees. This huge output throws the issue of vandalism of posters, or a ‘poster rip’, into sharp relief – although unofficially so, the places left after a poster rip are considered fair game. “Occasionally you’ll get a text from Conor McAndrew who’s the [L&H] auditor,” Fahy relates, “and he’ll say there’s been a poster rip in Arts. And we’ll have to run to the [Societies] Forum Office and make sure we get the free spots before anyone else notices. It can be really exciting sometimes – that does happen a lot.” Postering coverage can make or break an event, and society members go to great

“Altercations broke out as one society member challenged the validity of an opposing society’s poster placement”

lengths to ensure that the former occurs. Fintan Neylan, auditor of the Philosophy Society, described how he has often seen society members whose posters did not arrive on time from the printers, use large white sheets with their society names on them in order to state their claim over certain spots – so that when their posters arrive later, they have places to be displayed. “It’s a right battle – people running around viciously arguing with each another about things.” UCD takes the business of postering very seriously, and there are numerous rules students must adhere to while postering. Neylan stressed the importance the UCD authorities place on postering on campus: “Before term starts there is an auditor training day. All the auditors are brought into a room and we run through everything about societies regarding grants and that kind of thing, and postering is a big part of that.” Next time you have a 9am Thursday lecture, why not arrive half an hour early and take a look at the madness of the Poster Race? You won’t be disappointed.

Is aoibhinn beatha an pholaiteora? L

e cúpla seachtain anuas, is é an scéal is mó i mbéal an phobail ná iompar pholaiteoirí. Coicís ó shin, d’éirigh an tAire Cosanta, Willie O’Dea, as a phost de bharr gur thug sé eolas mícheart, i bhfios do, don Ard-chúirt i bhfoirm mhionnscríbhinn. An tseachtain seo caite, d’fhágamar slán leis an Aire Stáit, Trevor Sergant, de bhrí gur scríobh sé litir chuig na Gardaí ar son duine ina dháilcheantar maidir le cás a bhí á fhiosrú – rud nach bhfuil ceadaithe in Éirinn. Is cosúil go bhfuil dearcadh an phobail i leith pholaiteoirí athraithe ag an bhformhór le tamall beag anuas. Ní rómhinic a éiríonn Teachta Dála as a phost láithreach de bharr botúin a rinne siad. Tógaimis Iar-Thaoiseach Bertie Ahern mar shampla. Bhí sé líomhnaithe go forleathan go raibh sé sáite i gcúrsaí airgeadais mistéirigh sular shochraigh sé bogadh ar aghaidh. Is amhlaidh nach ndearna an beart éigeantach seo mórán dochair dó ag deireadh an lae toisc go bhfuil sé fós ag bailiú pinsin €160,000 gan trácht ar ioncam óna leabhar dírbheathaisnéise.

Tá a fhios ag an saol ag an bpointe seo go bhfuil pá dochreidte ard ag dul d’ár bpolaiteoirí sa tír seo. Agus é ag fáil €228,466, faigheann Brian Cowen tuarastail níos airde ná aon phríomhaire eile san Eoraip (Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel agus Gordon Brown san áireamh). Maidir le hAirí, faigheann siad €191,417 mar bhunthurastail agus ina theannta seo is féidir leo costaisí suas go €63550 a éileamh. Nuair a chuirtear é seo i gcomparáid le tuarastail múinteora, mar shampla, a thuileann €59,395 sa bhliain, in ndiaidh 25 bliain ag múinteoireacht is léir foinse feirge an phobail. Cheapfá go mbeadh saol breá ag polaiteoirí mar sin. Ní gá dóibh a bheith sa Dáil ach ar feadh 120 lá i rith na bliana, ciallaíonn sé sin go dtuilleann siad thart ar míle euro do gach lá atá siad ann. Ar an taobh eile den bhád, áfach, is minic a dhéanaimid dearmad ar an obair a dhéanann Teachtaí Dála ina gceantair féin agus an easpa saoirse agus príobháideachais a bhaineann leis an ngairm seo. Ag deireadh an lae is slí bheatha é seachas post.

Anseo i UCD ag an am seo den bhliain bíonn daoine ag ullmhú do thoghcháin an Aontais. De ghnáth, bíonn floscadh agus fíor-iomaíocht i gceist leis an toghcháin seo. Bíonn liosta na n-iarrthóirí lán de dhaoine cumasacha, spreagúla ag déanamh a ndícheall ag déanamh aon rud chun a gcuid smaointí agus tuairimí a chur ós ár gcomhair agus, níos tábhachtaí fós, chun muid a ghríosadh vóta a chaitheamh dóibh. Ach i mbliana tá cúrsaí difriúil. Níl ach seachtar ag seasamh sa toghcháin i gcomhair an chúig oifig shabóidigh, rud a chiallaíonn go mbeidh post an Uachtaráin, post an Oifigigh Shiamsaíochta agus post an Oifigigh um Leasa gan choimhlint. Tá sé deacair a rá cad is cúis leis an laghdú drámatúil seo. Ar ndóigh níl an tuarastail céanna ag dul d’oifigigh Aontas na Mac Léinn is atá ag dul dóibh siúd sa Dáil (An bhliain seo caite íocadh €110,000 as an gcúigear oifigeach.) Ach níl athrú mór tar éis teacht ar sin, mar sin ní mhíneodh sé sin an laghdú. Seans go bhfuil muinín iomlán ag

daoine as Lynam, Cosgrove agus Ahearn agus níl éinne ag iarraidh seasamh ina gcoinne. Nó b’fhéidir de thoradh iompar polaiteoirí áirithe le déanaí agus meon an phobail ina leith dá bharr, tá mealladh na gairme beatha seo ag dul i léig go

ginearálta. ‘An té is ciúine is é an té is buaine’ a deir an seanfhocal. Más fíor é seo i gcás toghchána gach seans go mbeidh bliain den scoth i ndán don Aontas atá le teacht!


02.03.10

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

17

FEATURES

features@universityobserver.ie

The young men dying to stay thin Most seem to think it’s a problem that affect the vainest of young women only - but Gavan Reilly investigates the rising number of males reporting eating disorders, and finds a problem that appears only to be getting worse

M

ost of us, when asked to close our eyes and imagine a UCD student with an eating disorder, would probably conjure up a similar image. We would probably envisage a thin young woman, wearing an oversized hoodie to cover her undernourished frame, standing outside the James Joyce Library, perhaps having a cigarette for lunch in an attempt to kick her appetite. Far fewer of us would imagine the same scenario being played out by a young man, conscious of his weight and hoping that a hit of nicotine will be enough to get him through lunch. Fewer again would picture a muscular young man in Crunch Fitness, grunting in pain as the muscles in his arm tear from one too many benchpresses, or whose legs are buckling after a mile too far on the treadmill. Yet this is the reality of eating disorders today – and countless male students are being affected by body image problems in more worryingly everyday ways. Last week was National Eating Disorder Awareness week – a week dedicated to raising the public profile of the scourge of eating disorders among the general public. While public perception of such problems has been traditionally focussed on the problems experienced by young women, this year’s campaign took a less predictable focus: highlighting the rising prevalence of eating disorders among men of all ages, as embodied in behaviour that many of us might not perceive as anything other than totally ordinary. “One of our biggest awareness campaigns last year was on challenging the stereotypes about eating disorders, because you do get this perception that it happens to 14-yearold girls and that’s it,” says Ruth Ní Eidhin of Bodywhys, the Eating Disorders Association of Ireland. “One of the big things we talked about was that, ‘no, this happens to people of any age, and it definitely does happen for men.’ We’re seeing an increase these days in the number of men who are being affected.” Whether the current rise in the number of male patients being diagnosed with eating disorders can be attributed to a genuine increase in the number exhibiting negative body image problems, or simply because more men are now taking the first step to recovery by acknowledging that they may have a problem is unclear. Either way, Ní Eidhin believes that the burgeoning societal obsession with male health has nurtured this culture, and suggests that men of all ages – but particularly young adults – are struggling to accept this new regime. This has been given all the more prominence with the recent news that Men’s Health magazine has overtaken the less healthoriented FHM as the biggest-selling men’s magazine on these islands. “There’s a lot more pressure on men in terms of physical appearance in the last five or ten years,” Ní Eidhin believes. “Women have been raised in a world

where we’re expected to be judged on our appearance, and we’re expected to be told how we’re supposed to look or dress, or whatever, whereas for men that wasn’t as prevalent for a long time. “Now, if you look at these Men’s Health magazines, there’s always a similar image on the cover of a guy that has this incredibly toned upper body. And that’s something that we are hearing a lot about… there is that consciousness of, ‘men are supposed to look a certain way’, and I’m not sure that existed about ten years ago.” This emergent culture is a logical and natural progression from the stereotypical roles of each gender in modern society, where men are portrayed as the more physically capable species, expected to take care of the heavy lifting, while women are still idealised as being less physically capable, but countering this by being, in a glamorised Hollywood world at least, ‘prettier’ and more delicate. It’s precisely this fixation with satisfying the athletic stereotype that leads so many men, Ní Eidhin reports, to their own unique form of coping: over-exercise. “It’s important to say that in the case of something like anorexia, with men it tends to be experienced a bit more differently, so rather than restricting your diet, you’re over-exercising, which is taking exercise to a compulsive level. “If you think about the number of guys in their 20s who have to go to the gym every day… it’s at that point where they can’t miss their gym session, or they can’t miss that time in the weights room

reotype and cater largely to females alone, the number of sites catering specifically for men trying to betray their bodies’ needs is also on the rise. One such site – a networking site where users can leave photos of themselves for others as ‘thinspiration’ – offers some “helpful tips and tricks” for its members. “Browsing through model agency’s websites, and finding adequit [sic] thinspiration pictures,” it recommends, “can distract you from eating and feels satisfying… Wear a red/purple bracelet on the arm you always eat with. Everytime you want to grab something, the bracelet will remember you.” The most striking thing about such sites is that, though they foster a community spirit where struggling users can feel inspired by their fellow members, the aim is far from healthy: users assist each other in resisting the urge to eat, and encourage – in spite of acknowledging their medical diagnoses and the best intentions of their parents and friends – continued weight loss to the point of emaciation. But worse than the continued support (photos of thinner men are rewarded with comments like “nice ribs”) offered is the resource of perverse motivational material, ranging from inspirational movies and songs to emotive texts such as ‘the Ana Creed’ (sample sentence: “I believe in bathroom scales as an indicator of my daily successes and failures”) and quotes promoting the values of self-control – a virtue that indulgent eating disorder victims consider to be idyllic, and one they perceive themselves as being ambassadors in spreading. Ní Eidhin is frank in admitting that the unique problems of male bodily image disorders – and the perception that such problems are female-only and that it’s considered somewhat effeminate to come forward with such problems – mean that tackling the problem is a regrettably difficult task, especially when it seems that more and more men are falling victim to such disorders: it is estimated that ten per cent of anorexia and bulimia victims are male, though this suggestion is constantly being revised upward. This is especially worrying given the Department of Health’s recent revelation that some 200,000 people in Ireland – one in twenty people – harbour some kind of negative body image problem, and the fact that there are only three public beds in the entire country allocated to treating patients with eating disorders. Thankfully, Ní Eidhin says that the admission of high-profile figures, such as rugby pundit George Hook and former British deputy Prime Minister John Prescott (pictured), as being victims of eating disorders have encouraged others of their gender and age to seek help for their disorders. “It has to be said, the [media] reaction to [Prescott’s public announcement]

“Wear a red/purple bracelet on the arm you always eat with. Everytime you want to grab something, the bracelet will remember you” because they feel there’s a certain amount of muscle they need.” This health-obsessed culture, of course, is not the only embodiment of male eating disorders: there is also the more highprofile stereotypical behaviour of purging food, and simply refusing to eat when their body demand nourishment. As detailed in the last Observer, pro-anorexia (or ‘pro-Ana’) websites are shockingly plentiful – but while many follow the ste-

Men’s Health magazine has overtaken the less healthoriented FHM as the biggest-selling men’s magazine on these islands was appalling. But, at the same time, our equivalent organisation in the UK – the number of calls they got from men in their fifties, sixties and seventies in the weeks that followed that was amazing. So there is that impact where if you see a man say, ‘Wait, this does happen to men and it’s not just young men, it’s men of any age’, it has such a huge impact.” Unfortunately for the moment – especially given the particular keep-fit culture pervasive among young men of college-going age – there are no similarly high-profile role models for male UCD students who might suffer from a body image disorder to look up to. This is something Ní Eidhin reports that Bodywhys are trying to address, explaining a new ‘Be Body Positive’ initiative where the organisation are hoping to recruit young people who themselves are coping with eating disorders to present a positive message to their peers. “If [young men] see someone from their own sport, from their own club, from their own team saying, ‘Wait a minute guys, this is what’s really going on behind this – mental health issues are a reality for men in this country. Let’s talk about this,’ I think it really does make a difference. You have those role models that are willing to talk about it, and not

saying, ‘This is a really big step for me to talk about this.’” Ireland needs to develop a culture where it’s not considered ‘brave’, she adds, for someone to admit an eating disorder. “It has to just be ‘what you do’. It’s not brave to talk about having a broken arm.” Sadly, though, it would appear that there are legions more young men suffering in silence. “From the men we would talk to on the helpline, there’s always that sense of, ‘I’ve suffered for so long, I’ve been completely isolated from this, and I don’t want people to know this is going on for me because it’ll be seen a sign of weakness,’” Ní Eidhin concludes. “There’s layer upon layer of barriers to people getting support, which is a real pity.” Bodywhys offer support and guidance services to those with eating disorders, as well as their families and friends, and operates anonymous online support groups for sufferers. Call 1890 200 444 or visit www.bodywhys.ie. The UCD Student Health Service can assist students who believe they may have a mental health problem. It can be contacted at (01) 716 3133.


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THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

02.03.10

FEATURES

features@universityobserver.ie

Canon or fanon, who do you ship? An online community of thousands, yet the real world seems to keep it firmly hidden behind closed laptops. Catriona Laverty explores the not-very-dirty-at-all little secret world of fanfiction writing

H

ave you ever sat down to watch your favourite show, only to feel betrayed when the lead character gets with the wrong person? Or maybe the writers decide to kill off the character you tune in to see every week? What if you find out that the show you’ve devoted your free time to is to be no more? Do you cry? Do you you call quits on the whole thing in protest? Do you keep on watching, knowing that the experience will be just that little bit less special now your fairytale ending will never be? Or do you, like thousands of others around the world, simply find a place where your favourite characters, your favourite storylines, your favourite shows can live out any and every possible storyline the human race can think of? That’s the world of fanfiction. Derided by many as the haven of nerds, geeks and sci-fi freaks, the realm of fanfiction is much more far-reaching, and much more respectable than most people give it credit for. The writers are not all ‘comic book store’ guys (although he is one for sure) and Trekkies. They’re not all bored housewives and students. They do not all engage in Star Wars roleplay at the weekend. Looking through some of the hundreds of sites I found while researching, authors are as diverse in nationality as they are in age, occupation and most importantly fandom. Fandom is, for the uninitiated, the particular universe a writer, artist, poet or video maker chooses as their muse. From a quick search, it would appear that Harry Potter, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings and of course Twilight are among the hot trends at the moment. Indeed, the final frontier is said to be the birthplace of fanfiction, and it’s a testament to its endurance, and its fans that it is still one of the most populous fandoms around. In fact it’s interesting that the science fiction and fantasy shows, books and movies seem to generate the greatest volume of writers, and pesumably, readers. Perhaps it’s simply that the genre is a dream for the imaginative creative types who inhabit the world of fanfiction. One such writer, Lavvyan, says it was the love of the characters and the “desire to see them more often than once a week. I wanted to get to know them better and send them on adventures I’d never see on paper or on tv.” While science fiction shows are Lavvyan’s main fandom, it’s not necessarily about the abilty to include time travel, space travel, aliens, robots and any number of other fantastical plot devices that draws a writer to a certain show or book. “You will find way less fan fiction for, say, a show that is beautifully told with an overarching plot and all loose ends tied up, no matter its ratings, than for one that (un)intentionally leaves questions unanswered.” On why people read fanfiction, Lavvyan is beautifully clear “they get to spend more time with their favourite characters and explore the things they love about them. Maybe give them a back story, a love story, keep them safe, or answer one of a thousand what-ifs”. While Lavvyan ardently points out the benefits of fanfiction, the bad points too are not far from discussion “What’s the worst thing? Talent without skill. There is something very sad about wanting to tell a story but screwing it up at every turn. The same thing goes for reading a story by someone who has put a lot of energy and emotion into it, but failed to pull it off. That’s just depressing.” And what of other fandoms? Do they endure the same high and lows as their

science fiction counterparts? Presumably they do, albeit with slightly less scope for the parallel universe plot, or the ‘aliens made them do it’ device. I spoke to Dee, a writer of fanfiction for drama series, and someone who holds westerns particularly dear. Dee started out reading fanfic, having come across it in “1998 or so – the early days of the internet”. “I stumbled across a website for The Big Valley (a western series from the 1960s)… I love westerns. I was very happy to discover ‘stories’ about the characters I liked. From there I searched and found more shows I liked, Emergency for one, and read those as well.” So why the transition from reader to writer? Well for Dee it was about the characters “I’ve always wanted to write and it gave me the vehicle to do just that. By taking characters in a TV show that I liked and was familiar with and extending that ‘behind their eyes’ feeling. What do they think? How do they feel? How do they react when they are sad, angry, depressed etc. All those nuances that you can’t see in a one hour drama due to time constraints.” The appeal, Dee says, for readers but especially writers stems from the desire to see how your favourite characters cope with what’s happened to them in the show. In essence it’s seeing what’s happening once the credits have rolled, how situations might play out. Fanfiction offers readers an unlimited choice of ‘what happened next’, whichever scenario you want, there’s a fanfic out there. That’s exactly how Dee started writing fanfic – an episode left so much unresolved at the climax, “I wrote an epilogue of how I thought it should have ended . It’s on

Dee prefers to google whichever show has piqued interest when searching for fanfic to read, and looks for websites that way. “I google the show I am looking to find fanfic for and check out the replies. I hate fanfiction.net, that’s one site I avoid because I don’t find it housing much quality and most of the stuff is slash or romance, which I don’t find interesting”. The motto of the aforementioned site says “Unleash your imagination, free your soul”. It’s a beautiful image of the talented writer inspired to put pen to paper while concurrenty fostering the notion that without writing fanfic, you’re somehow stifled, a caged soul. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the site is so maligned among the more serious writers, as it appears to encourage anyone and everyone to write about their fandom. That’s not a bad aspiration, but rather a frustrating one for anyone searching the internet for new stories of their favourite fandom. Wincing your way through a poorly written piece (which I hope you’re not) isn’t likely to relieve the ache of waiting for the next episode, or alleviate the yearning for a cancelled show. One of the many shortcomings of that site is the prevalence of ‘Mary Sue’ stories in its archives. A Mary Sue is a piece written from the point of view of the author, who has been transported (usually ridiculously) into the universe of their fandom. More often than not, their goal appears to be to make the lead male hero realise his love for them. Sheakespeare it is not. It is one of the tragedies of fanfiction that for every beautifully written, well crafted work online, there are inevitably several

dozen Mary Sues and her ilk. It’s a perception that has permeated the community and gives it the less than stellar reputation and cool factor among the outsiders.

But if you’re a story junkie waiting for your next fix, or if you desperately miss Buffy and Angel, it might just be the thing for you.

If you’ve been enticed into the world of fanfic, you might need these cheat notes to point you in the right direction

Glossary of terms Canon – the ‘official’ storyline of a particular fandom i.e. what the original writers write

my webpage and I got a ton of ‘thank you!’ from folks who like me, wanted more”. Of course there are bad moments for Dee too, “getting flamed” is the worst aspect of putting your writing out for the world to see. ‘Flaming’ is criticizing work in a nasty, personal, unhelpful way. “Early on, as a younger, more inexperienced writer and very sensitive, they really affected me. But I learned over the years and through discussions with other fanfic writers that often those individuals are frustrated, jealous and not terribly intelligent.” The fanfiction movement has generated a huge community spirit, especially among writers of similar genres. Lavvyan has a rather large following online, with stories on several fiction sites, and of course Livejournal. The advent of Livejournal has opened an entirely new avenue to fanfiction readers and writers and has been “established as fandom’s goto place for years” according to Lavvyan. For Dee, the feedback received from the community is one of the best things about sharing work online “It’s wonderful when someone reads them and takes the time to write me and let me know what they liked and why. So few fans take that time and it makes a big difference to a writer to know that it works.”

Fanon – facts or terms used in a fandom’s fanfiction so frequently that they become almost part of the canon to many writers. Apparently it was through fanfiction that Mr Sulu and Uhuru in Star Trek receive their first names, names which were then adopted by the official series writers. AU – Alternate Universe, very popular among the science fiction genres apparently, it’s where you take the characters from a show and drop them into another, well, universe. High School appears to be the most popular choice. AT – Alternate Timeline, pretty self explanatory really Slash – Fanfiction that places the characters in same sex relationships A/N – Author’s Note, it has been proven by helper rabbits that the number of author’s notes corresponds conversely with the quality of the story OC – Original Character, beware the Mary Sue OOC – Out Of Character, the characters will behave in a manner very different from the canon. Can often mean a writer isn’t particularly good at characterisations Smoosh – Usually when referring to a couple, the names will be smooshed ála Brangelina OTP – One True Pairing this is reportedly the presevre of Harry Potter and Twilight fanfiction, diehard fans of a particular couple Ship – Relationship, but used to describe which couple a writer prefers in their fandom. Who do you ship? Lemon­– Fanfiction with scenes of explicit sexual content


02.03.10

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

19

FEATURES

features@universityobserver.ie

Despatch from Kurdistan Just what takes someone all the way from Belfield to Iraq’s ‘Kurdistan’ provence? Journalist and former UCD exchange student Matt Frazer shares his story - and reveals a side to the war-torn country that few would recognise

W

hen I told my dear old Grandma that I was going to Iraq, she didn’t just gasp audibly, I was very nearly responsible for prematurely ending her exceedingly mature life. Actually, I tell a lie, I didn’t tell her outright I was going to Iraq, I told her I was going to “Kurdistan” – a country that doesn’t appear on any map you’re likely to find. “And where is that dear?” she asked. “Umm... Iraq,” I replied. Cue myself having to reassure the old duck that the Kurdish Regional Government (“the KRG”) is “basically an independent country”, and that there’s “only been two major explosions since the war began” which is “the same as London, and you let me live there – and as God is my witness, I wish you hadn’t”. “But you hate the desert,” she poses. Actually, unbeknown to most, much of northern Iraq is actually lush and green for many months of the year – indeed I’ve seen more snow here in the last two months than I did in my whole year at University College Dublin. Some of the untouched natural landscapes here are absolutely stunning – picturesque villages sit at the foot of enormous, snow-capped mountains. Kurdistan rivals Lebanon for the title of “the Switzerland of the Middle-East” – just without all the electricity and clean drinking water. But no, the reason I actually decided to come here was an intense interest in the geopolitical situation and its importance for the future of the Islamic Middle East. I’ve always been fascinated by questions of ethnicity, minority rights, identity and manufactured identity, legitimate use of force, and above all culture (perhaps because my home country, Australia, itself has slightly less culture than a tub of Tesco’s worst yogurt). So I thought it would be a good opportunity to try and become a journalist proper. The Kurds are arguably the largest ethnic group in the world without a state of their own. They are an ethnic Iranian people (that is, non-Arab, and part of the Indo-European language group) of at least 25 million, sprawled out across the Middle East. The land of Kurdistan covers parts of Iraq, Iran, Syria, and a very large part of eastern Turkey. The boundaries of these states, drawn up by France and Britain in the aftermath of WWI as they divvied up the spoils of the Ottoman Empire between them, are just as arbitrary, and painful, for the Kurds as they are for everyone else. But whereas in the past being Kurdish and Iraqi was to be native to the least fortunate part of Kurdistan – subject to Saddam’s brutal rule and genocidal campaigns – for the post-US invasion generation, it is to “win the [Kurdish] lottery of life”. Since the end of the First Gulf War, thanks to the US-UK-France implemented No-Fly Zone, the Iraqi Kurds have been building their nation – but not until the 2003 invasion definitively toppled the Ba’ath regime have they been able to develop a liberal democracy in the heart of the Middle East. The two dominant political forces – the KDP and the PUK – who divide Iraqi Kurdistan along broadly linguistic-tribal lines, have put aside their not inconsiderable differences (in 1994-1997 they fought the obligatory civil war that follows any long-sought-after independence, killing as many as 5,000) and worked together to build an independent Kurdish nation-state, with the benefit of the hefty economic wealth the region’s oil reserves bestow. Many things about Iraqi Kurdistan

might surprise you. For a start, the Kurds of Iraq are perhaps the most pro-American people on the planet – together with Albania, the only two places in the world I’ve been where it is actually a good thing to be mistaken for an American. But they love the West as a whole, and virtually everyone you meet has a family member living in France, Britain, Holland, Canada, or Germany. Alcohol is freely available and consumed in the big cities; most women do not wear a hijab – in fact, almost 30 per cent of the elected MPs in Kurdistan are female, compared to 13.9 per cent in the Dáil; and, most significantly, there is an incredible amount of gingers. I’ve travelled the world over and I would con-

fidently assert that outside of Britain and Ireland, Iraqi Kurdistan has the highest per capita incidence of ginger hair. Although all this is true, scratch the surface and not all is as rosy as sounds. Corruption and nepotism are rife – and not the cuddly, ‘Bertie Ahern chucking a few euros aside for his auld drinking buddies’ kind of corrupt, but the ‘beating and detaining journalists kind of corrupt, siphoning off tens of millions of dollars of oil money to Swiss bank accounts’ kind of corrupt. Nevertheless, the mere fact that incidents of this sort are openly printed in newspapers and discussed on talk radio – albeit with some brave souls having to suffer some cuts and bruises and the odd night in jail – means that the country is headed in the right direction. The national elections this Sunday, 7th March, are crucial; the opposition Movement for Change (Listi Gorran) is expected to win the stronghold of one-half of the governing coalition of Iraqi Kurdistan. If they do, and power changes hands reasonably peacefully, it will be a watershed moment in the history of democracy in the Middle East, and a crushing blow the proponents of Huntington’s obscene ‘Clash of Civilizations’.

The best case scenario for the Kurdish region of Iraq is another Dubai without the primitive tribalism and religious extremism, and with genuine civil society and rule of law. The worst case scenario, however, doesn’t even bare thinking about.

“The Kurds of Iraq are perhaps the most pro-American people on the planet – together with Albania, the only two places in the world I’ve been where it is actually a good thing to be mistaken for an American”


20

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

02.03.10

OPINION

opinion@universityobserver.ie

TALLEYRAND Regimes may fall and fail, but I do not… Felicitations fools, Talleyrand can almost taste the sweet freedom this Friday. Freedom from laughable lecture addresses, fugly faces on expensive posters, and cretin canvassers harassing the plebs to vote for their friend because “he’s really cool”. The end of election season can’t come fast enough, even if its ending leaves Talleyrand with an entire new generation of sap-batticals to deal with – “new” being used lightly, given three of them have been around the block and should be investing in Zimmer frames soon enough. Paul “Redmond 2.0” Lynam is haplessly hoping for a return to the golden days of 08/09 - to kicking assess and taking names. Those rose-tinted glasses he got in the pharmacy’s closing down sale really have given him a different perspective on his time in Aidan’s Army. You’d swear they were comrades in arms, and didn’t actually dislike one another. Simple Scott’s campaign seems to be falling apart, now that his right-hand woman is cheating on him with another candidate. There, there, Scoot, TR will get you some tissues and you can let all your problems out. Well, not all of them, Talleyrand doesn’t have all week. It remains to be seen if Scrotum will even make it to polling day, given all the fines for rule-breaking he’s amassed so far. He’s just lucky the Returning Office doesn’t know about Backing Board-Gate. Talleyrand is genuinely surprised that Cantankerous Cosgrove didn’t break his glasses and push him in the mud when he found out that Scoot was the culprit. Talleyrand heard that he smashed a painting at Class Rep Training when he couldn’t have potatoes with his dinner. At least that’s what Stephen “Stop trying to make LOL happen, it’s not going to happen” Whelan told the hotel management when they couldn’t find said painting. Talleyrand holds little faith in either Mags or Patsy for Clumsy & Careless Officer. Mags can’t even organise one campaign week, could you imagine him with a dozen? Oh wait, maybe that’s why he wants to cancel them all. Plus, he’s driven to tears at the slightest bit of stress, and has an awful fashion sense. A world of no. His rival isn’t much better, even if he is a little easier to take. Poor Pat-a-cake knows a lot of people and a can string a coherent sentence together, but he doesn’t really have an iota of intelligence when it comes to actually explaining his manifesto. Keep on trucking, Patrick Browne, you and your vision will get to your destination soon, TR just hopes it’s the new grease-trap in Café Brava. Talleyrand sometimes surprises himself. It’s a very rare occasion, mind you, the last time it happened was some years ago when he found himself supporting a lefty motion at Council to join in some protestin’ with Irish Ferries workers. This time, Talleyrand has taken a meagre interest in the Education race. On one hand you have the self-proclaimed sexiest man in UCD, John “Insulting the Editor’s hometown is never a good idea” Logue, with the self-proclaimed sexiest campaign team in history, with the assistance of the alleged sexiest hack in Fianna Fáil, Brian “Sixth campaign trail” Doyle. On the other hand you have the dotey James “My dog just died, be nice to me” Williamson, looking to stab his old mentor, Donnacha “The money was just resting in my account” Ó Súlleabháin, in the back and claim the Education throne, and the charity money that might help save a dying child’s life. There’s a hell of a lot rotten in the state of Denmark – Denmark being Lusty Logue’s team. Most popular man in UCD, Brendan “Mooch” Lacey and his iron fist don’t seem to be going down too well with the team’s juniors. Maybe Lacey is finally realizing that most people don’t actually like him or that t odour that clings to him. Still though, they’ll truck on to try and get Loguey elected. How will he become Chair of the KBC if he hasn’t been Education Officer? The boy’s an FFer, alright, thinking of what he can get out of this for himself. Talleyrand’s sure that Shovlin, Carroll and Doyle are bursting with pride right now. It’s said that behind every man is a woman, and behind every woman is a nasty case of PMS. That’s true of Williamson’s team anyway. Most of them don’t even know why they’re on the team, just that Angry Jackie put a gun to the small of their back and marched them to a campaign meeting. Still though, Talleyrand was hoping for Sligo’s finest, Lisa “Hot and cold” Henry, to get the job. She seemed to have the most sense out of the lot of them, seeing as she jumped ship before it was too late.

Talleyho, TALLEYRAND

Quotes of the fortnight “Not as big and sweaty as my balls” Jonny Cosgrove on comparisons to Anto Kelly’s college balls

“Are we relevant? No I don’t think we are” Scott Ahearn tells it like it is for once

“I chop it up in half and then lick it out” Paul Lynam on how he eats his

“We didn’t really have anyone else in the midlands, so it’s nice to get Maynooth back in” USI President Peter Mannion makes a case for overhauling the primary school geography curriculum

Why the National University of Ireland should continue Writing exclusively for The University Observer, NUI Chancellor Dr Maurice Manning argues that the proposed abolition of the NUI will devalue the UCD

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eaders of The University Observer whose primary allegiance is – of course – to UCD may not have been too greatly distressed at the announcement of the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe TD, that with the approval of the government, he plans to dissolve the National University of Ireland (NUI). However, as NUI Chancellor and as a graduate, former lecturer and currently adjunct professor in UCD, I believe that this is a bad decision, and not in the interests of UCD students. UCD is a constituent university of the National University of Ireland. The other constituent universities are UCC, NUI Galway and NUI Maynooth. From 1908 until 1997, these were colleges in a single university. Under the Universities Act 1997, each of the four institutions became autonomous self-governing universities while remaining within a loose federal structure. Under the Act, the degrees awarded by the constituent universities are degrees of the National University of Ireland. In addition, RCSI, NCAD, IPA, Milltown Institute and Shannon College are recognised colleges of NUI and NUI awards degrees in those colleges. UCD students should be concerned that the Government is planning to dissolve the university whose name and crest appear on their parchments. The reputation of the National University of Ireland has been built up over a century and valuable recognitions have been secured internationally for NUI degrees. This is of vital importance to graduates, particularly in medicine and health sciences. In many countries, having an NUI degree is an advantage in the jobs market. Approximately 7,000 students come to Ireland annually to study in NUI member institutions. The NUI degree is important in attracting them here. These students make a significant financial contribution to the universities and the economy, and on graduation they act as valuable ambassadors for Ireland overseas. In my view, dissolving the NUI will lessen the attractiveness of Ireland for these students. The Minister acknowledges the value of the NUI brand. He plans to open discussions with the constituent universities to ensure the protection of the integrity and international reputation of NUI degrees. I fail to see how he will be able to do this convincingly without retaining the organisation at the centre of the federal university.

NUI is the connective tissue that joins the constituent universities together and gives meaning to the concept of the NUI degree. It is the central forum of the University where the member institutions come together to share information, particularly in the interests of maintaining high standards. Through their collaborative activities, NUI degrees are protected and promoted and the NUI brand is sustained. For these reasons, the four NUI constituent universities all support the retention of NUI. If the Constituent Universities become completely separate institutions, and the historic connection between them is removed, it is difficult to see how the shared titles of their degrees can retain their meaning. In other words, how you can have degrees of the National University of Ireland without a National University of Ireland? Ireland is a speck on the world stage. To maximise their impact, Irish universities need to combine their energies and their resources. The NUI’s constituent universities have a lot in common deriving from their shared history and traditions. In its submission to the Higher Education Strategy Group, NUI recommended that the advantages of the federal structure as a vehicle for collaboration and international promotion should be further exploited. Rather than pursuing a policy that will lead to increased fragmentation the government should seek to promote greater collaboration between Irish universities. NUI provides central services for the member institutions and other useful services for graduates, prospective students, schools and the general public. It maintains archives and registers (including the NUI Seanad Éireann register). Every year, NUI offers highly prestigious travelling studentships, fellowships, scholarships and other awards to students and graduates of the member institutions. (The current issue of UCD Today features details on the UCD students and graduates who were successful last year.) To terminate some of these

activities and disperse others could not be considered a positive move. As an institution NUI is older than the State, but is strongly associated with the State since its foundation. My predecessors as NUI Chancellor include Éamon de Valera, T. K. Whitaker and Garret FitzGerald. NUI plays an important role in supporting the language, history and culture of Ireland. It promotes academic excellence in its member institutions and provides significant support for academic publishing. The Minister plans to establish a new ‘super agency’ for qualifications and quality assurance. The continuation of NUI is not in any way an impediment to the setting up of this new agency. NUI has assured the Minister that it will co-operate fully in any new framework for external quality assurance in universities. NUI has been in existence since 1908. It has over 250,000 graduates in Ireland and throughout the world. Its name is well established. Its degrees enjoy a high level of recognition. It provides useful services and support for academic activity. It does not cost much to run and needless costs will be incurred by dismantling it. It is difficult to see what advantages would accrue to its member institutions, to higher education in Ireland or to Irish society through its dissolution. I call on the Minister and the Government to think again.


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EDITORIAL

editor@universityobserver.ie

Photo of the fortnight

Editorial

2nd March 2010

It often seems that the President and four Vice-Presidents of UCD Students’ Union are at their most visible before they hold those positions at all. In the first week of March their faces appear in every corner of campus, asking us to elect them as the leaders of our representative body. Visibility and relevance is a constant problem for the SU, but when placed in the context of the work undertaken by the five sabbatical officers it is one that we ought to expect, rather than something we should argue with a degree of cynicism. Many students complain that the five officers live in a bubble in which they can only comprehend a small fraction of what it is to be a student. The sad truth is that this perception is one that likely cannot ever be addressed. Given the increasing red tape under the presidency of Dr Hugh Brady, and the evergrowing list of committee meetings the sabbatical officers are required to sit in on, it is almost impossible for them to be able to fully relate to the current student experience, if they are to be in a position to effect the change demanded of them by their constituents. A successful SU officer is not necessarily one who can be seen

out and about the campus every day of every week: it is one who can strike the balance between retaining their human touch and keeping track of the demanding bureaucratic schedule handed to them by UCD itself. It is unfortunate that this year’s crop of prospective officers seem to tick all of the same boxes: all seven are male, all have prior SU experience or are heavily involved in campus societies, and all acknowledge that the promises in their election manifestoes are almost entirely contingent on the financial situation of the university for the year ahead. It’s a shame that, for the second year running, there will be no elected female presence on the Students’ Union corridor. Where this culture has developed from is a difficult question to answer and one that requires the student body to look critically at itself. But irrespective of the fact that there are so few candidatesin this year’s elections, and although their demographic profile might not be fully representative of the membership, the seven men seeking your support in the SU elections deserve to be commended for putting their names forward for approval or rejection by their fellow students. We wish them well in their election campaigns, and

Letters to the Editor Letters should be sent by email to letters@universityobserver.ie or by mail to: The Editor, The University Observer, Student Centre, Belfield, Dublin 4 All letters are subject to editorial approval. The Editor reserves the right to edit any letters.

Student Residences Madam, I would like to bring to your attention the awful state of the university accommodation, in particular Glenomena. I think it needs to be brought to light how horrible and substandard the living condition that we are living in. It’s just not on how much we pay for what we are getting. UCD need to buck up their ideas and realise they cannot treat the students that they are educating like this. I am sick to death of the residence team doing absolutely nothing to sort out the mould and all other complaints that the residents have brought to their attention. T. Ward

Missing Person

dated 13th October 2009, relating to a missing German man, Thomas Mueffke. Thanks to your help, Thomas was found in Galway. On Wednesday 28th October, Thomas arrived in Frankfurt where his mother and father could embosom their son at last. The Mueffke family were overwhelmed by the huge amount of sympathy and helpfulness offered by the Irish people, and never thought that so many people would help and console her.

Students queue at the SU shop for their UCD Ball tickets last week Photo Rob Lowney hope that the five who win the privilege of representing us will make the best contribution they can to bridging the gap between our union and ourselves. ****** The University Observer would like to clarify its policy on dealing with the death of a UCD student.

Sadly there are too many student bereavements each year in UCD, of which the Observer is not – and nor has a right to be – automatically informed of. While the frequency of student passing is of regret to everyone in UCD, including ourselves, it would be inappropriate for us to report selectively on any student deaths.

If the Observer asserted a right to report on all student deaths, we would find many bereaved parties rightfully questioning our place to report on the deaths of students we do not personally know. We fully respect the right of the friends and family of any deceased student to grieve in their own time, and in their own individual manner.

Contributors: Volume XVI, Issue 10 Editor Catriona Laverty Deputy Editor Gavan Reilly Art & Design Director Kristin McKnight otwo Editor Colin Sweetman News Editor Bridget Fitzsimons Comment Editor James Fagan Features Editor Peter Molloy Chief Features Writer Matt Gregg

On their behalf we would like to express our gratitude and appreciation of all the help and assistance we were offered on behalf of ourselves and of the Mueffke family.

Science & Health Editor Farouq Manji

Yours, etc,

Image Editor Colin Scally

Michael Viol Attorney Dresden, Germany

Music Editor Grace Duffy

Sports Editor Killian Woods

Film & TV Editor Conor Barry

Madam,

Fashion Editor Seán McGovern

I refer to the letter published in the edition of your newspaper

Image Editor Colin Scally

~ “That’s a nice cow” ~

Contributors

Special Thanks

Agony Anto, Ruth Aravena, Zoë Austen,

Graham, Malcolm, Ian, Tim, Dave,

The Badger, Niamh Beirne, Rachel Boyle,

Jonathan, Ade, Emma, Jed, Bob, Steve

Marian Carey, Richard Chambers, Alan

(and the robots) at Trafford Park

Coughlan, Alex Court, Stephen Devine,

Printing; Paul at Higgs; Eilis O’Brien and

Ciara Doyle, Gary Dunne, Conor Feeney,

Dominic Martella; Colm, Claire, James,

Paul Fennessy, Sean Finnan, Ciara

Rory and Danielle at MCD Promotions;

Fitzpatrick, Deirdre Flannery, Adam

Dan and Orla at Friction PR; Laura

Frazer, Sam Geoghegan, Patrick Guiney,

and Darren at Warner; Bernie Divilly

Niamh Hynes, Rita Jacob, Alison Lee,

at PIAS; Rob Lowney; Giselle Jiang;

Sophie Lioe, Jack Logan, Nicola Lyons,

Dave Carmody; Dominic, Grace, Mark,

Ryan Mackenzie, Jamie Martin, Michelle

Sandra, Charlie, Jason, Paul and all the

McCormick, Diarmuid McDermott,

Student Centre staff; Philip Bourke

Hugh McLaughlin, Doctor McSeamy,

and all at UCD AFC; Ruth Ní Eidhin;

Slightly Mollified, Conor Murphy,

Attracta Halpin; Michelle McCormick;

Grace Murphy, Mystic Mittens, Ciarán

Tommy Bowe; Cesc Fabregas; Wayne

Ó Braonáin, Jake O’Brien, Quinton

Rooney’s forehead

O’Reilly, Breffni O’Sullivan, Michael Phoenix, Shane Regan, Fionnuala Ryan, Emer Sugrue, Talleyrand, Ekaterina Tikhoniouk, Selva Unal, David Uwakwe, Natalie Voorheis, Amy Wall, Leanne Waters, Natasha Wetten

Tel.: (01) 716 3119/3120 Email: info@universityobserver.ie Web: www.universityobserver.ie

Facebook.com/universityobserver Twitter.com/observer_ucd

Clarification It is the policy of The University Observer to rectify any errors as soon as they arise. Queries and clarifications can be addressed to info@universityobserver. ie.


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02.03.10

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SCIENCE & HEALTH

science@universityobserver.ie

Life on fewer than Forty Winks Ekaterina Tikhoniouk investigates the world of sleep disorders and finds some funny – and some not-so-funny – consequences of not getting a regular night’s sleep

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or something that consumes about a third of our lives, sleep does not always go smoothly – because when some of the brain’s sleep mechanisms malfunction, serious medical problems can develop. These disorders aren’t as uncommon as is believed. Almost everyone has had some experience with a sleeping disorder – like having trouble getting to sleep the night before a big event, or being unable to get up for 9am after 12 hours of solid sleep – or even waking up on your living room floor, with no idea how you got there. In fact, surveys have shown that approximately 30 per cent of the general population has a sleeping disorder. More than half of those over 65 experience disturbed sleep, while a quarter of under-5s have some problem sleeping. There are a total of 84 classified sleep disorders, which can be lumped into two broad categories: parasomnias and dyssomnias. Parasomnias involve unnatural movements, emotions and perceptions while sleeping or awakening. These include sleep-sex, sleep-walking and sleeptalking, teeth grinding and night terrors. On the other hand, dyssomnias are sleep disorders involving either too little or too much sleep, such as insomnia, sleep paralysis and hypersomnia. Disorders such as insomnia are increasingly frequent around the globe, affecting one in ten people. There’s no single definition of insomnia that applies to all sufferers, but a general definition is having difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep over a period of at least three weeks. This deficit of nighttime sleep can create daytime fatigue, impairing mental and physical function during the waking hours. There can be many triggers, but one of the most commonly reported causes is stress – especially job-related anxiety. Other triggers include depression, lack of exercise, and poor sleeping habits. There are many different ways to treat insomnia. Often a doctor may prescribe sleeping medication, but these can exacerbate the situation. Insomnia is not a disease that can be corrected with medication; it is rather a symptom of other personal or physical problems, such as high levels of stress, or physical pain or discomfort. Patients who take medications develop a tolerance to them, meaning that larger and larger doses are needed with time. Insomniacs also suffer rebound symptoms if they cease taking the medication, or try to take smaller doses, finding that they can’t sleep properly without a full dose. This common syndrome is called drug dependency insomnia. On the other side of the scale lies hypersomnia, characterised by excessive amounts of sleep. Patients with hypersomnia will have no problem getting to sleep – in fact, they often experience recurrent bouts of drowsiness during the day, but even frequent naps do nothing to relieve symptoms. Even after 12-14 hours of sleep every night, they will have trouble waking up the next morning, and often be tired and unresponsive. The Klein-Levin Syndrome, also nicknamed the Sleeping Beauty Disease, is the most known form of recurrent hypersomnia, involving long periods of acute drowsiness. These episodes can last from several days to several weeks, with the person sleeping close to 23 hours a day, only waking up to eat or go to the bathroom. Very little is known about its causes and treatments. Narcolepsy is another sleeping disorder where the person has abnormal

Thankfully, situations like this are not too common in UCD – but sleep disorders can be far from a laughing matter and unpredictable sleep patterns, and is characterised by recurrent “sleep attacks” that the patient cannot fight, usually lasting about 10-20 minutes. The sufferer feels refreshed by the sleep, but will often feel sleepy again several hours later. A narcoleptic attack can include not only a bout of severe sleepiness, but also a loss in muscle tone and stability (cataplexy), which often forces the sufferer to collapse. This means that a person with narcoleptic cataplexy can enter deep sleep at inopportune moments – the sufferer could be walking down the street, watching TV, cooking dinner, or – even more worryingly – driving or doing something that requires full attention. The exact causes of narcolepsy have not been fully documented, but some scientists believe that it is caused by the brain’s inability to adjust to a normal sleep-wake cycle. Other researchers have found that a malfunction in the immune system could be to blame. Both sides agree, however, that certain people are genetically predisposed to this disorder. Narcolepsy is one of the most unusual and least common sleep disorders, affecting one in 4,000 people, but it’s not limited to humans – there have been case studies of narcoleptic dogs, and cats suffering bouts of cataplexy. There is no cure for narcolepsy, but in humans, it’s often treated by prescribing stimulant amphetamines, while antidepressants can help control cataplexy attacks. Parasomnias are quite different from dyssomnias. The patient usually finds no problem with getting to sleep and staying asleep. Parasomnias are sometimes described as disorders of physiological arousal during sleep. The most wellknown parasomnias are sleepwalking and sleeptalking, and some bizarre instances have even involved sleep-sex.

Sleepwalking (or ‘somnambulism’) occurs when the states of being awake and being asleep occur at the same time. The eyes are open and the muscles active, allowing sleepwalkers to act on the whims of their half-conscious brains – to quote Shakespeare, their “eyes are open, but their sense is shut.” Sleepwalking is most common in children, with up to 17 per cent of under12s experiencing one or more episodes during their childhoods, though this is something the child often grows out of. Roughly four per cent of adults still experience somnambulism, and the disorder appears to have a genetic factor, running in families. One researcher reported a family of grown members who were reunited for a holiday celebration. In the middle of the night they awoke to find that they had all gathered in the living room – in their sleep. Somnambulists can do other bizarre things in their sleep, from merely walking around, and unlocking doors, to raiding the fridge, or having conversations with themselves or others in their sleep. This writer was privy to seeing an unnamed friend sit up in bed, eyes half-closed, bellowing “The key, the key! Where is the key?” before falling back to sleep. Other instances include waking up to find said friend sleepwalking repeatedly into the wall, or trying and failing to open the bedroom door. Most people perceive sleepwalking as a comic, mildly embarrassing occurrence, and there are many anecdotes like the ones above – of sleepwalkers eating half the contents of the fridge and contentedly curling up on the kitchen floor, ‘redecorating’ the living room with muesli and moving furniture around, or putting their slippers in the microwave. Although it is true that most instances

of sleepwalking cause the individual no harm, others can be extremely dangerous – and even fatal – to the sleepwalker and those around them. Recently there have been many tragic examples of death through somnambulism, such as that of teenager Troy Heather who sleepwalked off a balcony during a holiday abroad. There’s also a frightening increase in the number of ‘sleepdriving’ cases, in which sleepwalkers have gotten into their cars and driven for sometimes long distances, paying very little attention to traffic lights or other cars, and sometimes causing horrific road accidents. Scientists are still not fully sure what exactly causes somnambulism, but they have discovered many relevant factors. In chronic sleepwalkers, for example, scientists have identified an accompanying respiratory disorder, which when fixed, lessens the recurrance of sleepwalking over time. Other factors include alcohol, drugs, and sleep deprivation, which is known to trigger sleepwalking in susceptible persons. Spending over 30 consecutive hours awake greatly increases the chance that a person will sleepwalk during their ‘recovery sleep’ that night. Sleeptalking can be triggered by similar causes, but is much more common. Those who are awake can carry a conversation with the sleeptalker, as well as implant ideas into their heads. Sleeptalkers are usually very suggestible during this time. Another disorder similar to sleepwalking is sleep-sex, a parasomnia that causes people to engage in sexual acts in their sleep. They may even go as far as sexual assault or rape, and have no memory of it the next morning. People who have a history of sleepwalking or sleep talking are more likely to exhibit sexsomnia

episodes. There have been relatively few case studies of this disorder; the first legal case of sleep-sex was brought as recently as 2005 when a York man, charged with rape, was acquitted after being diagnosed with sexomnia. On the other side of the globe, an Australian woman was reported as leaving her house at night and having sex with strangers while sleepwalking. So from insomnia to hypersomnia, sleepwalking to sleeptalking, there are many things that can go wrong during sleep. Sweet dreams…

“A York man, charged with rape, was acquitted after being diagnosed with sexomnia”


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02.03.10

SCIENCE & HEALTH

science@universityobserver.ie

MMR vaccines: the truth will out We all get them almost as soon as we are born - but just how safe are MMR vaccines? Alan Coughlan explores the furore around the universal but controversial vaccination, and asks whether there is any truth to its reputed effects

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Even though the evidence against Wakefield and his work is strong, the damage has been done to vaccination programmes. With diseases that were once under control and even partially eradicated once again on the rise and a large antivaccine movement still growing it is today’s newborns that are now at risk.

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“The problem with what he said was that it fuelled people’s fears and perpetuated the myth around the toxicity of MMR vaccines”

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showed a complete lack of scientific knowledge of an issue in which she has become a central figure. Hydrochloric acid is used in a process of titration to balance the pH of the vaccine so that it is neutral when it is injected into the body. The problem with her public statements about vaccines is that they lack proof or intelligence and undermine decades of scientific research. She is given a soap box in the form of TV interviews and an opportunity to milk her celebrity status in order to get her message across. In today’s celebrityobsessed world it seems people are ready to take medical advice from a Playboy bunny before a doctor. This furore about the MMR vaccine of course began with Andrew Wakefield’s research paper. However in the years following its publication it was discovered that he was receiving a large amount of money from trial lawyers. These lawyers were involved in lawsuits against physicians for alleged vaccine injuries. In 2004 ten of the twelve co-authors on the paper withdrew their names and support from it. Wakefield was also exposed for performing very poor science in taking figures from a very small pool of samples. It was also discovered that he paid £5 to every child at his son’s birthday party who allowed him to take a blood sample to use in his analysis. Perhaps most damning, was the evidence that Wakefield had applied for a patent for his own competitive vaccine. The conflicts of interest inherent in this type of behaviour are astounding. At the beginning of this year the General Medical Council in England ruled that “Andrew Wakefield acted both dishonestly and irresponsibly in doing his research”. In reaction to this ruling The Lancet retracted Wakefield’s original paper from the published record. There is a high possibility of him being struck off the register however he is already practicing medicine in the U.S.

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obody ever likes what is good for them. Nutritious vegetables or hours spent studying are enough to make the average person protest. Intuitively, an awful taste or negative feelings let people know what they don’t want to do. Intuition might also tell a person that taking a small dose of a disease is a bad idea. At face value this seems a reasonable assumption, but just beneath the surface lies a wonder of medicine that helps to protect us all. Vaccination is a staple of modern healthcare. In a given population when a vaccination is administered thoroughly it should neutralise a target disease and grant immunity to that population. An uptake level of 95 per cent is recommended to allow a vaccine to be effective. At levels below this, problems can occur. With a large enough pool of susceptible hosts, a disease can propagate, infect, kill and most significantly, mutate. If any disease, be it bacterial or viral has the chance to propagate and mutate into a new form, it can bypass current vaccinations and then everyone is at risk, not just those who are unimmunised. Andrew Wakefield in 1998 published a paper in The Lancet which purportedly found a link between autism and certain gastrointestinal disorders, and the administration of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. In the wake of publication, fear amongst parents of young children spread quickly and it took only a few years for signs of its damage on public health to emerge. Initially Wakefield had called for a suspension of the three-in-one vaccine until more research could be carried out, stating “if you give three viruses together, three live viruses, then you potentially increase the risk of an adverse event occurring, particularly when one of those viruses influences the immune system in the way that measles does”. The problem with what he said was that it fuelled people’s fears and perpetuated the myth around the toxicity of MMR vaccines. One of the chief suspects in the debate was a compound known as Thiomersal, a preservative used in many vaccinations. Approximately 49 per cent Mercury by weight, it was immediately singled out as the primary cause of adverse effects. In 2002 Thiomersal was removed from vaccines in the United States. A study published in 2008 looked at the rates of autism within California. The study found that the number of cases had been increasing at a steady rate over the previous few years even after the removal of Thiomersal from the childhood vaccine schedule. If Thiomersal was the cause of the problem, the number of new cases of autism should have fallen. So why have the number of cases been increasing? According to Dr Stephen Novella, “there is no real increase in the rates of autism, it is just a case of increased surveillance and an increase in the scope of the diagnosis.” In America Jenny McCarthy (former Playboy Playmate) has become the leader of the anti-vaccine movement. She has publicly blamed her son’s autism on the MMR vaccination he received around the time of his first birthday. She has been quoted as saying her child was perfect until the day he got his MMR vaccine and then she “saw the soul go out of his eyes”. In a separate TV appearance she read a list of the so called ‘toxic’ ingredients of vaccines and listed Hydrochloric acid as a harmful additive. Whilst, in isolation, such a substance would be harmful to the body, she

UCD Vice-President for Students UCD School of Music


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SPORT

sport@universityobserver.ie

Why we love sport

Why we hate sport Killian Woods discusses the reasons why people may be turned off the trying and testing world of sport

Sport isn’t a matter of life or death, it’s much more important than that, argues Paul Fennessy

Sport Editor

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inston Churchill was always renowned for showing extraordinarily good judgement. During an interview towards the last years of his life, Churchill was asked to reveal the secret of how he managed to keep in such good health, despite the interminable stress which undoubtedly pervaded his political career. “Sports,” he replied. “I never played them.” Still, despite Churchill’s reservations, there is much to be said for the virtues of sport – health-related or otherwise. Granted, following a team that isn’t Manchester United often requires zen-like patience. But then is that not part of the beauty of the game? Without the lows, the peaks would not feel so dizzying. Without 89 minutes of dour long-ball football, then that one moment of magic from an enigmatic Brazilian midfielder would not seem quite so sublime. One other common criticism is espoused by revolutionary linguist and former UCD guest speaker, Noam Chomsky, who argues that sport keeps people “from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have some idea of doing something about.” While it is true that watching sport usually doesn’t require rigorous concentration and a colossal intellect such as Chomsky’s, these factors hardly render the whole experience pointless. Everybody needs to switch off now and then, and watching sport constitutes the perfect opportunity for relaxation. It is as if Chomsky expects everyone to be in a constant state of anxiety, worrying relentlessly about the world’s problems. Intellectual snobs like Chomsky are misguided in assuming that sport has little impact on the real world. Following England’s 1966 World Cup victory, there was proven to have been a direct correlation between this triumph and the nation’s subsequent economic improvement. Moreover, sport often represents the sole hope for kids looking to escape from impoverished backgrounds. Where would the likes of Wayne Rooney and Serena Williams be without an outlet for their prodigious talents? The ineptitude of the education often afforded to people from working class backgrounds means that sport is crucial in improving their self-esteem and offering them the possibility of a fruitful existence. Admittedly, it is indisputable that those lucky enough to acquire superstardom in sport regularly neglect their good fortune by acting in a disreputable manner. However, can the same not be said of all other characters that form part of the social elite? Surely the prominent politicians and businessmen of this world are no less averse to bad behaviour. It is doubtless, at times, difficult to admire athletes on account of their personal failings. “But you without sin be the one to cast the first stone,” as the golfer and Bible-reader Ben Crane recently said, in reference to the Tiger Woods controversy. Yet the foremost reason to watch and partake in sport has nothing to do with moral, sociological or economic factors. It is primarily the sense

of shared community and experience that it promotes. There are few feelings more euphoric in life than celebrating in a packed stadium when a try is scored, or a goal is registered. Although the scene in Trainspotting – whereby a moment of orgasm is coupled with images of Archie Gemmill’s famous goal for Scotland during the 1978 World Cup – was played mainly for laughs, there was an element of truth to it. The release of mass tension enabled by this goal was considerable. Scotland had – up until that point – performed poorly, with the world watching on. Yet this glorious moment served as redemption, since it single-handedly managed to eradicate the sense of national embarrassment that the Scottish team’s performance had previously invoked. For further proof of the improvement in national self esteem and community spirit which sport promulgates, one need only watch the recently released Clint Eastwood movie, Invictus, outlining the crucial role that sport played in improving the quality of life in South Africa. The rugby side’s World Cup victory not only rejuvenated national pride in post-apartheid South Africa, but it also served as the ideal platform for Nelson Mandela to demonstrate his approval for their predominantly white team. The symbolic connotations of his handshake with the team captain, François Pienaar, acted as a gateway for black and while unity in a country which had previously been racially divided. Therefore, in moments such as those mentioned above, sport demonstrates a capacity to transcend its oft-referred-to status as “only a game”. And it is for these moments that all sport fans live.

“There are few feelings more euphoric in life than celebrating in a packed stadium when a try is scored, or a goal is registered”

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topic as emotive as sport can shake its fans to their core, and bring out a side to people that would not normally raise its head in public. Sport in general has many favourable factors, but even at its most enjoyable moments, it is often the negatives that shine through. There are many aspects to sport that people cannot stomach; most can be bundled into more finite categories such as cheating, while others are foul entities within themselves, like hooliganism and racism. Drug use in sport is one of the most contentious issues – seeing top-class athletes using drugs for recreation, or to increase their chances of winning, is usually enough reason for them to be shunned by their once-devoted fans. When Andre Agassi admitted to taking crystal meth, the former world number one tennis player was frowned upon by fans and his fellow pros alike. Household names of modern day tennis such as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were verbal in their disgust at the announcement, while Martina Navratilova compared Agassi to suspected baseball cheat Roger Clemens. Though Agassi’s drug taking would have been considered only a ‘class two’ offence at the time, and he would have been forced to served a mere three-month suspension under ATP rules, the once-revered star now has his name tarnished in the minds of avid tennis fanatics worldwide. Other high-profile cases include Diego Maradona’s positive test for drugs during the 1994 World Cup, cited by many as the principal reason why the Argentinian cannot compare to the likes of Pelé as the greatest player ever. Likewise, the ill-fated decisions of former Chelsea striker Adrian Mutu stick in the minds of fans who feel little sympathy for the extent of his ban and fine, as a result of a second cocaine offence. Another aspect of cheating people find hard to palate is acts of blatant deception in games themselves. An obvious example of how sport can enrage an entire nation is Thierry Henry’s handball in the lead-up to the extra-time goal that secured a World Cup berth for France. Most people took offence to Henry’s refusal to acknowledge his wrongdoing there and then, adding insult to injury. This lack of respect shown towards fair play is common in football, but other sports have embraced the concept for a long time now. Curling is an example of how fair play can exist in a top-class competitive situation. If by chance a player’s foot hits against the stone of an opponent, the offender more often than not will bring this act of accidental foul play to the attention of their teammates and opponents. This code of honour is a shining example to others of how self-adjudication can exist in sport. Though cheating is an intolerable facet of sport, a bigger cancer exists in certain sports and specific cultures in the form of racism. While some might think that racism is a dying trait in our modern society, in recent years there have been many high-profile cases of racism and acts of prejudice at major sporting events. Many of these incidents seem to crop up in Spain, where

a particularly intolerant and disgusting section of the public see fit to harass players for the colour of their skin. During his time at FC Barcelona, Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o was regularly singled out by factions of the away support, and on certain occasions Eto’o had to be restrained by his own teammates as he attempted to walk off the pitch in protest at his treatment. Similarly, during an international friendly in Spain, held in Seville in 2004, England’s Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole were picked out by the crowd and maligned with insulting monkey chants. We would like to think that this element of dogmatism has been purged from the British and Irish communities, and though this may be, other elements of prejudice are inherent amongst football fans. Liverpool and Manchester United are two of the biggest football rivals in Europe and the world, and because of this, both clubs always enjoy getting one over on their counterparts. However, the extent which these two football clubs go to insult their rivals is for the astounding, if not sickening. It disgusts me that hooligans will spend their time composing chants about Liverpool fans murdering each other in Hillsbrough, while recent YouTube videos from a rally of a Liverpool supporters’ union, Spirit of Shankly, hit home harder. Seeing a Liverpool fan singing about Manchester United players dying on a runway in Munich was enough for this writer to pack away his Liverpool memorabilia once and for all, and renounce his support for the club. Sport is a vital component of our lives and provides sanctuary for many from their trials and tribulations. No one should be able to take the joy affiliated with sport away from us, and only the positives should be focused upon – but we must always remain aware of the negative aspects to sport, and constantly strive to rid them from our games.

“England’s Shaun WrightPhillips and Ashley Cole were picked out by the crowd and maligned with insulting monkey chants”


02.03.10

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

SPORT

Visit universityobserver.ie/sportscomp for your chance to win a UCD AFC jersey

Schools of thought The Leinster Schools Senior Cup has its many benefits to the growth of Irish rugby, but serious review is needed to prevent this competition getting out of hand, writes Killian Woods

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Sport Editor

ome of Ireland’s most promising rugby stars are the fruit of the competition’s loins and no fewer than eight players who made up the Irish squad in Twickenham last Saturday have competed in it. Yet there seems to be certain aspects of the Leinster Schools Senior cup that outweigh its potential benefits to Irish rugby. As an outsider looking in, it is hard not to see the competition itself as a clique which is selectively exclusive to certain secondary schools in Leinster. Admittedly this view held by some is bred from some ignorance about the format and innerworkings of the competition. However, when non-rugby orientated schools look on from afar and see the likes of Blackrock and Belvedere, to name a few, perennially reaching latter stages of the competition, you can understand why schools may be reluctant to try and enter the mix. Schools such Kilkenny College and St Gerards have began to buck the trend with impressive performances bringing them to the quarter-final and semi finals respectively. However, prospects of seeing a new name on the Leinster Schools Senior Cup are not the main priority that people involved should be worried about. The expectations and pressure that are placed upon some of these young players at times seem over-intensified and unnecessary. Most schools will nowadays pull out all the stops to gain a minute advantage over their opponents. Whether it is employing a top-class team of coaches or through supplementing the diet of their players to make them bigger and stronger, there appears to an over-emphasis in attention

to small details. The protein shakes that young players are now religiously consuming are one of the roots of all evils in schools rugby at the moment. These products contain high levels of protein which is very accessible to the human body, and therefore will help build up muscle mass. Guidelines for taking these supplements advise taking the products before and after rigorous workouts to see best effects. It is a common sight these days to see the schools rugby players bench pressing sinful weights that are well out of their physical capacity and then gulping litres of the body building liquids. This is a problem definitely attributed to the coaches who do not provide adequate information about the negative results which can arise from abusing the alleged benefits of the drinks. There are mixed studies that display the positive and negative effects of these supplements, with the product’s manufacturers naturally taking the pro-side of the debate. However, these products are now being claimed to create a false sense of strength in players – with their muscle on the exterior appearing to be well developed, and the interior being metaphorically hollow. This false sense of physical development leads players to push themselves even harder and risk life-changing injuries. These players who compete in the Senior Cup fall into a delicate age category that makes up the highest proportion of injuries than its most popular counterparts, GAA and Soccer. Admittedly rugby requires a higher intensity of contact than the previously mentioned sports, but the high numbers of injuries in

the upper limbs, specifically the shoulder area, in the last three years has given food for thought if these protein shakes are having a negative effect of player welfare. The statistics available show that the players competing at this grade are not being properly managed. There is a worrying lack of adequate protective gear used at this age grade, while the execution of the game’s laws in the tackle and general timekeeping have to be seriously revised. Games played out in the Senior Cup comprise of two 35 minute halves, with reduced game time aimed at reducing the stress on players. However, when games such as the Blackrock vs Belvedere first round fixture are allowed continue on for 80-plus minutes, the better interests of the young players are obviously not at heart. These can most obviously be considered the more negative aspects of the competition itself, however certain facets do simply display the passion players and fans pour into this prestigious cup. The post-match scenes at the recent Kilkenny College vs Clongowes Wood College quarter-final depicted what can be morally right about this tournament. After battling to the end and even when down and out, displaying the hunger and drive to play some attacking rugby, at full time Kilkenny College’s 150-odd fans invaded the pitch and rallied around their team to show their support. The Leinster Schools Senior Cup has always been a breeding ground for upcoming future stars of Irish rugby, however, facets of the competition need to be analysed and reviewed to prevent the competition evolving into an even more intense entity.

Current Leinster Schools Senior Cup holders Blackrock College celebrate their victory last year.

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‘Fenno’ on Sport This fortnight, Paul Fennessy highlights the Irish sporting public’s lack of appreciation for Ronan O’Gara and evaluates Ryan Shawcross’ infamous tackle on poor Aaron Ramsey Last Saturday’s enthralling encounter between England and Ireland served as the perfect snapshot of Ronan O’Gara’s career to date. Having been written off by some critics, the Munster out-half ’s conspicuous influence on proceedings – launching a vital tactical kick to touch and helping to turn the game in Ireland’s favour in the process – once again dispelled any lingering reservations over his ability. There is an unusual tendency in this country to occasionally downplay success. Robbie Keane is criticised all too often, notwithstanding the fact that he is Ireland’s all-time leading goalscorer. Similarly, Padraig Harrington – unquestionably the greatest Irish golfer ever – has been the recipient of unwarranted disdain for having the supposed temerity to finish second on too many occasions. Yet O’Gara is the starkest example of an Irish athlete who is unfairly derided by many followers of the rugby team. For someone who has been accused of possessing a lack of physicality and – for want of a better term – a lack of ‘bottle’, he has come an awful long way in international rugby. Though many would disagree, I believe that O’Gara’s contribution to the Irish team over the past decade has been just as telling as that of his more revered peers – Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell. It is true that the rate at which O’Gara converts kicks has never matched a player of the calibre of Johnny Wilkinson at his magisterial best. Moreover, his ball-carrying skills are plainly inferior to other out-halves such as Stephen Jones. Nonetheless, his tactical kicking has been invariably sublime. Consequently, in an era when Irish rugby has enjoyed unprecedented success, O’Gara has masterminded many of Ireland’s most important wins. Those who accuse O’Gara of wilting during big moments need only be reminded of the numerous late scores he has registered whilst under intense pressure for Ireland – including his drop-goal last year which secured Ireland that elusive Grand Slam. Consider also the crucial kick he delivered with consummate accuracy into the hands of an onrushing Shane Horgan during the historic 2007 Croke Park win against England, or his peerless display scoring all seventeen points in our memorable 2004 victory over the Springboks. Of course, for anyone with a career as lengthy as O’Gara’s, low points are inevitable. He performed poorly at the last World Cup – but then the same can be said of every Irish player. His brief cameo for the Lions last summer was also mired by lamentable errors. Nevertheless, it must be said that the Lions management’s patent lack of trust in O’Gara – only introducing him into the action when other alternatives had been exhausted – could hardly have been beneficial to his confidence. However, a player does not become the record points scorer for both Munster and Ireland – in addition to being the highest Six Nations points scorer ever – without possessing copious levels of self-belief and resilience. Some critics, though, have contin-

ued to question O’Gara’s reliability. Indeed, many observers would have undoubtedly baulked at the decision to introduce him in the dying stages of the game last Saturday. Nonetheless, O’Gara proved his doubters wrong for the umpteenth occasion. Despite rarely even touching the ball during the contest, he only required one opportunity to demonstrate his class. The Americanborn out-half ’s exquisite kick to touch provided the foundation for Tommy Bowe’s winning try, as O’Gara displayed the guile which Ireland had often lacked in the preceding stages of the match, in spite of Johnny Sexton’s respectable performance. Therefore, while Sexton has thus far displayed enormous potential, he is by no means representative of the finished article just yet – a point which was vividly illustrated by his erratic kicking prior to his substitution. O’Gara’s age and Sexton’s recent impressive form has rendered the latter more likely to figure in Ireland’s World Cup campaign next year. But I would be disinclined to dismiss the chances of O’Gara substantially adding to the 96 caps which he has acquired at the time of writing. However, even if the Munster legend fails to preserve his international career much longer, Sexton still has a long way to go before he can warrant the level of respect that O’Gara has surely earned. ****** It is always saddening to see a player of such tremendous talent as Aaron Ramsey suffering a horrific injury. There have been analogous instances in the past – most notably Roy Keane’s callous assault on Alfe-Inge Haaland – where footballers have deliberately injured a fellow professional. However, Ryan Shawcross’ tackle last Saturday – sickening as it was to watch – was at worst extremely careless. Shawcross’ distraught reaction to his challenge confirmed the absence of malice. Arsene Wenger has pointed out that his team have been the victim of similar occurrences on two separate occasions. But this unfortunate statistic can primarily be attributed to the wealth of possession which Arsenal routinely enjoy against their opponents, in addition to the incredible speed they employ whilst attacking other teams. Wenger is wrong to blame referees and opposition players for what are generally unavoidable accidents. Consequently, Shawcross does not merit undue scorn for his actions.


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THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

02.03.10

SPORT

sport@universityobserver.ie

France to win - but win ugly

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Sam Geoghegan reviews the weekend’s rugby action and believes France’s Grand Slam will be down to the lack of any credible opponents, rather than their traditional flair

e’re now over halfway through the 2010 RBS Six Nations, and the third weekend of the Championship has confirmed what we all knew: France’s path to Grand Slam glory is all but assured, and all of the Northern hemisphere sides have much work to do if any of them want to succeed in winning the World Cup in New Zealand in 18 months’ time. A dramatic weekend kicked off on Friday night in Cardiff where tournament favourites France faced Wales in the cauldron of the Millennium Stadium. While the Welsh started with attacking intent, they were lacking in ideas and were unable to break down a French defence that were all too happy to wait and capitalise on any mistake. The first mistake came after only six minutes when outside centre

James Hook attempted a wide pass to stretch the defence. His pass was poorly executed and led to French winger, Alexis Palisson, intercepting it and running the length of the pitch untouched and under the posts. Wales continued to be punished by France for their schoolboy errors, demonstrated by another intercept try at the stroke of half time by out-half, Francois Trinh-Duc. Wales began the second half with a 20-0 deficit to overcome and although they admirably attempted the comeback, it predictably fell short, as France won 26-20. Comebacks are becoming a habit for Wales in this year’s Championship, after falling short against England in Twickenham and by defeating Scotland a week later. If Gatland’s team began matches with

the same pace and urgency shown in the second half of their opening three games, they would be the only team left in the competition undefeated. This is something that Gatland and Shaun Edwards must improve upon in their final two matches against Ireland and Italy. Though France should secure the Grand Slam with both of their remaining games in Paris against Italy and England, it should be noted that their second half performance almost cost them the match. The Italians emerged victorious 16-12 over Scotland on Saturday in the Wooden Spoon matchup. The gulf in class between these two sides and the other four has been consistently evident in recent years: this is Italy’s tenth year in the tournament, and they have appeared to have hit an obstacle they can’t overcome. Italian progress has been slow in the last ten years and

Competition

The University Observer is giving you the chance to win your very own UCD AFC replica jersey. All you have to do is answer the question below, and email the answer – with your name and mobile phone number – to comp@universityobserver.ie Entry is free; only one entry per person will be accepted.

Question: Who is the current captain of UCD AFC? The deadline to enter the competition is 5pm this Thursday, 4th March. Winners will be contacted shortly after the deadline.

The Badger

The Badger can dig faster than any human with a shovel. But d’ya know what? Ashley Cole isn’t all that bad at diggin’ holes…

B’jaysus. Portsmouth that competed against Football club are in one Scotland in literally the hell of a mess. The Badger first ever game of football can’t remember seeing any in 1887 BC, he is starting entity managed worse than to stink the place up. this disgrace of a football club. These two alterations to Everyone at Pompey should the core of the club will be ashamed of themselves that create a positive breath they’ve let the club’s situation of fresh air and optimism reach a newfound low. Some throughout the set-up, teams should really know their and allow for the final limits and just settle for the stage of the masterplan status of ‘Championship relegato begin. tion contenders’, and save us all One point that is the bother of worrying about constantly raised in them. every article maligning The entire club has just the Badger’s latest prized turned into a parasitic cashasset highlights the fact sucking charity that apthat Portsmouth do not proaches you in the middle of have any corporate boxes the street with their clipboard in their dilapidated staand asks you to sign-up to a dium. Well, the Badger direct debit payment of €30 per sees it differently. When month for the next 26 years. he looks out on the pitch Normally when these kind It doesn’t say ‘Jobsite’ on the Pompey shirts for nothing… he doesn’t just see grass of humanitarian simpletons and white lines, he sees advance, people put their heads an opportunity. Out on point of order would see the Badger down and ignore the situation, that pitch, there are, in adding some wealth to his name with a but the Badger isn’t regular folk. fact, eleven portable corporate boxes stereotypical Abu Dhabi twinge. Sheikh Everytime they interupt his day with ready to be snapped up by the highest Halal Badger Yum! has a nice Middle “Hi, how are you? Would you like to bidder. In short, the Badger will be aucEastern ring to it and would be the support the global war on cancer?”, or tioning off places in his club’s team and instigator of much change at Fratton “Support victims of solar flares in Tagive the overweight oil barons of this Park. hiti!”, the Badger likes to remind them world the chance to see their heroes up In a clean swipe, Sheikh Halal that they are as useful to society as close and personal. Badger Yum! would get rid of the deadused toilet roll is at curing tuberculosis. No doubt this ingenious innovation wood hanging around the club. The Unfortunately many of these exuburent is going to bring in billions of revenue smelly man who incessantly rings his individuals are popping up around that will boost Pompey back to the bell throughout games, Mr Portsmouth Belfield at the moment, and the Badger good days of 2008. This can then be Football club, will be driven from the is getting really sick of them. reinvested in the club’s squad, opening club and have ‘The Saints” tattooed So as always, he has taken it upon the door for ‘Arry Redknapp to return, across his forehead. The Badger cannot himself to fix the entire problem and be allowed squander the generated confirm that this man actually smells, one by one sort out each charity in revenue on needless signings, reach a but he has the smelly look about him order of patheticness. Obviously he meaningless cup final, leave the club that Russell Brand also possesses. will start with the giant elephant in the and its overpayed players behind, and Next on the agenda is more room – that is, Pompey FC. Hypothen... well... the club is right back in deadwood in the rigid shape of David thetically, if the Badger was in charge the same position of nearly going out James. Being literally the only surviving of the club, things would naturally be of business. member of the England under-29 team running a whole lot smoother. The first Sent from The Badger’s iPhone

the Azzurri have never seemed capable of an upset against the usual top sides of France, England and Ireland. Scotland and Andy Robinson appear to have no answers and with it no hope. The most anticipated match of the weekend occurred on Saturday evening when a wounded Irish team faced an undefeated English side under Martin Johnson. Ireland, though winners, were predictable and lacking any sort of initiative. Jonny Sexton started his first Six Nations match, and it was his perfectlyweighted grubber kick for Tommy Bowe that set up the opening score – but apart from that, he and the rest of the Irish backs offered little. Ireland had to work relentlessly to score David Wallace’s try in Paris a fortnight ago – and while their tries at Twickenham were a lot more straight-forward, they highlight the fact

that Ireland need more ideas, initiative and endeavour if they have any hopes of success at the World Cup. On the other hand, England dominated possession and the Irish defence gladly soaked up the pressure and pounced upon any opportunities. The English style of play is reminiscent of their 2003 World Cup-winning team but without the same raw talent. The frustration the English backs must feel is unimaginable: Johnson shackles his backs, believing in sacrificing style for substance, and relying upon the boot of Jonny Wilkinson. Overall, Europe’s Six Nations are a long way off the skill and talent levels of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. France should win the Grand Slam, but that’s more to do with the lack of meaningful opposition rather than their own talent.

UCD lose out to Queens in netball semis UCD’s netball teams competed in the 2010 Irish Netball Intervarsities in Belfast last Friday and Saturday. Teams from across the country took part in the event, with clubs from UCD, Queen’s University Belfast, Trinity College Dublin, and the University of Ulster campuses in Jordanstown and Coleraine all fielding two or more teams in the competition. The tournament was organised in a round robin style, with every team facing off against each other over the course of the two-day event. UCD’s first team enjoyed great success in the initial stages of the competition, putting in good performances against the likes of Queen’s and UUJ to finish first in the round robin part of the event. UCD’s second team came sixth overall in this part of the competi-

tion, an impressive position considering the overall standard of the teams taking part in the tournament. UCD’s first team advanced to the semifinal stage of the event, only to lose out to the eventual winners Queen’s in a close encounter, which saw UCD lose by just two points on a scoreline of 13-11. Though they finished on the losing side, UCD’s semi-final performance was particularly commendable, considering their opponents had several experienced Northern Ireland international players in their ranks. Caroline Conlon was named UCD firsts’ player of the tournament, while Katie Lyons and Kathy McNestry were the best performers for the seconds and thirds respectively. Killian Woods

Sports digest

with Richard Chambers Rowing:

The annual Colours Boat Race is scheduled to take place in Dublin on Saturday 6th March. Organisers have chosen a route from O’Connell Bridge to the Guinness Brewery at St James’ Gate in what promises to be a dramatic event for spectators. The universities will battle for supremacy across four disciplines: Women’s Novices, Women’s Seniors, Men’s Novices and the blue Riband event, the Men’s Seniors. The prestigious Gannon Cup, named in honour of Ciarán Gannon of UCD, awaits the victors of the Men’s Seniors race. UCD have dominated the competition in recent years and will be hoping to complete a historic three-in-arow over their city centre rivals from Trinity College.

American Football:

UCD American Football will kick off their Irish American Football League season on 14th March in Belfield. Beginning their

inaugural league campaign, UCD face the reigning champions, UL Vikings. Head Coach John Collins’ side face a difficult schedule, with an end-of-season return fixture against the Vikings following games against the veteran Cork Admirals and Carrickfergus Knights. The young UCD side will hope to make a positive impact following a successful season in the developmental league.

Handball:

UCD’s Hilary and Marianna Rushe and Declan Smith were triumphant at the World Collegiate Handball Championships in Phoenix, Arizona last weekend. Smith defeated UL’s John Fitzgerald in the Division 1 Intermediate final, while Hilary and Marianna Rushe overcame Missouri State in a tense women’s doubles final. Marianna was later imperious in the Ladies Division 1 final, defeating Bailey Chandler in two games to defend her crown.


02.03.10

THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

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SPORT

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UCD AFC set sail for top flight

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Ryan Mackenzie catches up with UCD AFC manager Martin Russell and captain Evan McMillan to get their views on the upcoming season as they return to the Premier Division

he time has finally come, and for UCD players and fans alike it’s not a moment too soon. This Friday, the Students will take to the field for their opening match in the newly rebranded Airtricity League Premier Division for the first time in two seasons. The UCD side faces a tough Drogheda United who will be looking to emulate their 2007 championship season, and who will want to demonstrate that life is indeed tough in the top flight. College captain Evan McMillan and manager Martin Russell spoke to The University Observer in the build-up to their opening match and gave their views on the much-anticipated season ahead. Last season was one to remember for UCD AFC. After opening the campaign with a terrific eight-game winning streak, the College side were able to remain solid and finish strongly to secure first place, ahead of the always threatening Shelbourne, and achieve automatic promotion. The team exhibited moments of real footballing explosiveness, worthy of a spot in the top division of Irish football, and often proved too much for opposing teams – recording six wins by three or more goals, and keeping 20 clean sheets. The standard the side reached was not a foreseen reality for the players. “At the start of the season we had a team meeting and the aim

was to get promoted”, says McMillan, “but most of the players would probably admit that they didn’t really think we would win the league.” This display of modesty by the young captain remains a strong mindset in the team as they approach the daunting challenge ahead. Asked what their realistic prospects for the coming season are, both McMillan and Russell respond with cautious predictions, perhaps anxious to ensure that the success of last year does not breed complacency in the young team. While the prime objective is to simply avoid a swift return to the First Division, McMillan is not fazed by the prospect and would not consider it a miracle if UCD were to survive, saying that “Bohemians and Rovers are probably a good bit ahead of the rest… but bar those two I don’t think there’s anyone to fear.” Russell pitches an old cliché: “We’ve just got to try and play the best we can.” A major issue with this youthful side is the loss of its previous captain, its most experienced player and the shining star of last season, Ronan Finn. The now Sporting Fingal midfielder was a charismatic presence, and as a strong leader will be sorely missed. Russell, however, appears confident that his midfield is qualified and talented enough to compete without their former talisman. “The midfield is an area in our team that we consider we are very strong in. There are some wonderful,

young midfield players at the club”. Surprisingly, the exceptional youth of this UCD side is of no concern for their manager as they enter a league that boasts some of the most established players in the Irish game. He views the college team as “primarily a development club”, describing it as “the ideal situation to be in” for a young footballer in Ireland, citing the combination of educational opportunities, superb facilities and a high standard of football as a terrific nurturing environment for football’s youth. While applauding the scholarship system for offering these advantages, Russell is under no illusions that the experience of other clubs such as St Patrick’s Athletic and Bohemians is what’s needed to be a title-winning team in the top league. The enthusiastic manager closes the interview by stating, “It’s going to be competitive – every week it’s a tough game”. The team will meet no tougher test than in its second match where UCD encounter last year’s champions, Bohemians. While it’s unsure how UCD will fare this season, the college side can be assured they will face a far tougher challenge than they overcame last year. Only time will tell if the Students can pass the test. Follow the students’ fate throughout the season in the Observer and at universityobserver.ie

UCD captain Evan McMillan and manager Martin Russell (inset) hold no fears for the upcoming season

Magical goal the Send your daughters difference in cup and your money Ciarán Ó Braonáin was in Tolka Part to watch UCD defeat DIT in the Colleges and Universities Football League Final UCD travelled to Tolka Park as strong favourites for the Colleges and Universities Football League title on the back of an impressive campaign which saw them net an astounding 31 goals in just six games, while conceding only twice. On top of this formidable record, the University side has dominated the tournament since its inception, winning two of the past three finals. DIT, on the other hand, were making their debut in the competition’s final but could take great heart from the groupstage draw between the two sides – not to mention their own superb record of 17 goals scored, and just two conceded. The first half was a great advertisement for the competition with both teams determined to play attractive passing football. The first effort of note came on 15 minutes when DIT conceded a free kick on the edge of their area. Unfortunately for UCD, David McMillan’s sweet strike deflected out off the left post, with Craig Hyland in the net appearing beaten. Moments later DIT were also denied by the woodwork: Eoin Kavanagh’s corner led to a scramble in the area, climaxing with the ball cannoning off the crossbar to relief of the UCD defence. As the match progressed the University side began to dominate in possession, with DIT defending doggedly and looking dangerous on the counter. The game’s opener, however, came as UCD hit on the break. After DIT had squandered possession from a throw in a promising area, a swift cross-field pass found UCD’s Peter McMahon who raced forward, leaving his man for dead, and slotted the ball under the onrushing Hyland. UCD immediately looked to build on their lead and although their fantastic flowing football looked, on occasion, set to overwhelm DIT, the Belfield side failed to find any meaningful penetration as their opponents gave them little space in the final third.

The failure to make their possession count was punished on the half hour mark as DIT levelled the game. Craig McDonnell capitalised on a skewed clearance, taking the ball on his chest before rifling a dipping volley into the net from the edge of the area. McDonnell’s thunderous strike gave a renewed vigour to his side and the closing stages of the half saw some exciting end-to-end football. The second half saw UCD regain their dominance in possession, although both sides seemed to suffer from fatigue with the high tempo and heavy pitch clearly taking its toll. In a half just shaded by the University side, it seemed as if tired legs had settled for extra time – and on 92, when Robbie Creevy received the ball in a seemingly innocuous possession, few onlookers would have expected anything else. As his manager stressed afterwards, “it was going to take a moment of magic” to separate the finalists, and that is exactly what the man-of-the-match delivered when he curled a truly beautiful 25-yard effort over the helpless Hyland into the top right corner of the net. It was a heartbreaking moment for the DIT players, who had no doubt felt their committed performance had earned them an extra half-hour. However, Creevy’s was – without question – a goal fit to win any final. UCD: G Barron, G Mathews, D O’Connor, M Kelly (J Timmons), M Leahy, P Corry, P McMahon, R Creevy, G Falconer (S Doyle, S Belhout), D McMillan, S Houston. Subs not used: D Lehane, D Fallon, B McCabe, M McGinley DIT: C Hyland, D Zambra, N Flynn, C McMahon, C McDonnell, S Fitzgerald, R O’Farrell, M O’Connor, D O’Sullivan (C Costello), E Kavanagh (T Adigun), S Roche (D Soon). Subs not used: C Cochrane, A McGrane, M Calahin, R Church

It’s a great place to send your daughter for a match, but the Cheltenham Festival can also bear some cash rewards if you stick to Stephen Devine’s tips

I

t’s that time of year again – when everyone becomes an expert on horses, and sales of the Racing Post go through the roof. The Cheltenham Festival has captured the hearts of Irish racing fans for decades, and its success in recent times has simply increased the popularity. This year the quality is as good as ever, with world-class racing every day, and high Irish hopes in many of the major races. The horse seen by most to be a banker for the festival is Dunguib. The Philip Fenton-trained novice will most likely start as the shortest-priced favourite in the history of the Supreme Novice Hurdle, and jockey Brian O’Connell’s only worries after the horse’s win in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown will have been the seven-year-old’s jumping, which was far from perfect. A repeat of his display will make it much harder for Fenton’s charge in the highlight of day one. The best value going on the Irish raider is 20/21 on Betfair. The mention of Cheltenham in recent years has almost always been accompanied with talk of Kauto Star. Last year saw the Paul Nicholls-trained ten-year-old become the first horse in Cheltenham history to regain the Gold Cup with his victory in the race. He will once again renew his rivalry with his stablemate Denman, this year partnered by Champion jockey Tony McCoy. Denman’s preparations for the festival haven’t gone exactly to plan, however, as McCoy found himself unseated in the Aon Chase at Newbury at the start of February. Race-goers will hope that the sheer experience of a jockey like McCoy will boost the horse’s chances of claiming a second victory in the prestigious race. Nicholls has been bullish about Kauto Star’s chances for a historic third Gold Cup, telling the press last week that Kauto “is going to Cheltenham

in the form of his life. As far as his chance are concerned, there doesn’t appear to be any chinks in his armour - he looks bombproof.” The bookies seem to agree, making him an almost unbackable 8/11 favourite to claim back-to-back victories in the race. Nicholls also trains the odds-on favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase in the form of Masterminded. The winner of the race in the last two years had seemed off the pace earlier this season, and was diagnosed as suffering from a rib injury during his final preparation for the festival. Masterminded, however, ended impressively in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury, and the current 8/11 favourite may start even shorter on the day. Punters looking for value at the festival could do worse than the Jessica Harrington-trained Summit Meeting, who has been cut from 33/1 to 20/1 after being tipped by racing guru Tom Segal to give the Dermot Weld-trained Rite of Passage a run for its money in the Neptune Investments Novice Hurdle on St Patrick’s Day. The well-bred five-year-old has already turned over hot favourite Arvika Legionnaire at Fairyhouse in February and all eyes will be on how well he can hold up with a top-class field. This year’s line-up looks as good as ever, and with a good chance of Irish horses claiming eight or more victories, it would be wise not to bet against Ruby Walsh being crowned the leading jockey come Friday evening. Best Bets: 3 points win, Dunguib at 20/21 (Betfair) 1 point each-way, Summit Meeting at 20/1 (Paddy Power) The Cheltenham Festival begins on Tuesday 16th March. Visit www.gambleaware.co.uk for advice on gambling safely.


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THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER

02.03.10

SPORT

sport@universityobserver.ie

Ruby Walsh and Kauto Star: two-in-a-row at Cheltenham?

OBSERVER

sport

See page 29

UCD crash out at Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-finals Limerick IT 1-15 UCD 2-9 UCD’s senior hurlers bowed out of the 2010 Fitzgibbon Cup at the hands of Limerick IT thanks to a marauding performance from Joe Canning, reports Jack Logan

D

espite a last-minute push from UCD, Limerick IT held on with an impressive display of both attacking prowess and solid defence to progress to the next stage of the Fitzgibbon Cup. With a semi-final place on offer, not to mention an opportunity to make amends for their 1-13 to 0-12 defeat to LIT in the group stages last year, UCD had enough motivation to take the game to Limerick IT on their home patch, and were further buoyed by the return of captain Maurice Nolan. The presence of Galway’s star forward Joe Canning in the LIT side loomed heavily over the game, however, and his tally of 1-09 was impressive and could even have been greater but for the sterling efforts of David Kenny in containing the Portumna man for much of the first half. David Langton and Oisin Gough also held the defence solid during the opening half, with LIT’s Seamus Callanan kept quiet by the UCD backs. In fact, it was this same game of containment that allowed UCD to lead at the halfway point, 1-06 to 0-8, with corner-forward David O’Connor’s goal from a rebound providing the margin. Nolan extended this gap to two points within the first minute of the second period, but UCD could not maintain their level of intensity as LIT, led by the performance of Willie Hyland, began to impose themselves on the quarter-final. Having been rested against GMIT in LIT’s last outing in the Fitzgibbon Cup, it was nine minutes before Canning notched his first point, but by the second half he was cruising, scoring the goal that pushed his team in front for the first time ten minutes into the second half. The goal was well worked

– Cavan’s Bernard Gaffney deftly flicking the sliotar into Canning, who blasted it to the back of the net. The tempo of the Limerick attack was increased as they found another gear and LIT opened up a six point margin heading towards fulltime with points from Canning, Peter Atkinson and Gaffney. There was further drama to come as UCD’s sheer doggedness to stay with their Limerick rivals resulted in a goal from captain Maurice Nolan. It was a long-range attempt, catching the LIT defence off-guard as it dipped into the goalmouth. The pressure up front from UCD continued to come from Dublin footballer Rory O’Carroll and Liam Rushe but ultimately they were left to rue what might have been after Maurice-Nolan’s last minute effort from a 30 metre free to force extra time was saved, as was the shot on the rebound from UCD midfielder Liam Ryan. In fact, LIT may owe their place in the semi-final of the competition to their fullback James McInerney, who dealt superbly with both blocking Ryan’s shot and quickly dealing with the clearance. LIT can now turn their attention to the Fitzgibbon Cup finals in NUI Galway next weekend. Canning can also look to use that occasion as valuable preparation in the run up to the All-Ireland Club Final. LIT: M Ryan; C Chaplin, J McInerney, J Gunnings; N O’Connell (0-1), W Hyland, R Sherlock; S Collins, P O’Brien; P Browne, S Callinan (0-1), N Quinn (0-3); S Tobin, J Canning (1-9, 0-6 frees, 0-2 65s), B Gaffney (0-1). UCD: J Ryan; E O’Shea, C Gleeson, O Gough; N Prendergast, D Langton, D Kenny; L Ryan, J Boland; M Nolan (0-3, frees), D Lyng, J Boland (0-1); R O’Carroll (0-2), P Atkinson, L Rushe (1-3, 0-2 frees).

UCD centre-back David Langton clears under pressure

UCD Marian lose out to Hoops in close encounter A marvellous late effort from UCD’s Michael Higgins forced overtime in a tight Superleague encounter, as UCD Marian took on southside rivals Shamrock Rovers Hoops, watched in the UCD Sports Centre by Patrick Guiney UCD Marian came very close to grasping victory away from Shamrock Rovers Hoops in their Superleague clash last Thursday evening, but the overtime game symbolised a contest that was so close but yet so far. UCD played admirably, with scintillating runs from Michael Higgins and Luke McCrone, as they looked by far the form team, but an unfortunate lack of discipline and a breakdown in communication led to Shamrock Rovers Hoops having the final say in a gripping encounter between these two southside rivals. The first quarter had an air of tenacity for Frank Ryan’s students, as in quick

succession they took the lead on three different occasions with captain Niall Meany and Luke McCrone both scoring impressive baskets. However, Hoops were an impressive outlet with a strong physical core, particularly in the daunting Carlton Aaron who accumulated an impressive 36 points throughout the game. The second quarter brought a similar pattern for UCD, with the vocal encouragement from the home crowd and the strong leadership from Niall Meany leading their fightback in the local derby. Notable performances in this quarter came from Conor James and Ian McCormick. Frustratingly however, UCD lacked the

requisite clinical finish and were unfortunately lacklustre and wasteful when it mattered most. It was evident from the third quarter that both sides were suffering from fatigue in this nailbiting encounter. Conor Meany and Neil Baynes had outstanding performances, scoring 26 and 16 points respectively, but their individual performances were no match for an onform Hoops who were playing in perfect sync – at one stage, it seemed that every shot was a basket. UCD didn’t back down under this concerted pressure from their opposition, though, and still managed to finish the quarter just eight points behind

UCD Marian 102 Shamrock Rovers Hoops 111 their rivals. The game’s climax was a dramatic affair, with both teams battling hard until the final whistle. A moment of skill and luck for UCD brought them right back into the game as an impressive shot from Michael Higgins sailed through the net, leaving the score at 92-92 as the referee signalled full-time and brought the game to a fifth period.

As the five minutes’ added time elapsed, it became clear that both teams were suffering from the consistently high intensity of the match. Unfortunately for the home side it was Hoops, with some clever play and determination, who managed to edge themselves into the lead. A collective mood of grief and frustration at missed chances could be felt from the home players as the match ended 102-111.


The University Observer: Volume XVI, Issue 10